Zachary Wefel lives in Windom Park. The Ward 1 City Council candidate is a practicing attorney. Submitted photo

Attorney Zachary Wefel joins Ward 1 race

Updated: December 21, 2016 - 1:48 pm

Incumbent Kevin Reich faces a second challenger for his Northeast seat

Zachary Wefel, a 28-year-old attorney who lives in Windom Park, is joining the race for City Council Member Kevin Reich’s Ward 1 seat.

Wefel is the second person to announce his intention to run against Reich after Jillia Pessenda, who also lives in Windom Park and recently served as finance director on state representative-elect Ilhan Omar’s District 60B campaign. Reich previously said he plans to run for a third term.

Wefel is serving his second term as a director on the Windom Park Citizens in Action board and is a co-founder of the Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library, a non-profit organization that gives members access to an inventory of tools housed in the Thorp Building. He said both experiences have prepared him to take on the role of council member.

Wefel said he’s joining the race because there are a number of issues the city is not addressing proactively.

“‘Proactive’ in my mind means not just waiting to see what’s going happen, who’s going to be a deciding vote,” he said. “It’s about going out and changing minds and articulating a vision for what Minneapolis can be.”

He said if elected he would make police accountability a top issue. He said the City Council has some leverage to influence department policies when reviewing and approving the mayor’s pick for chief of police.

“I think we’ve had year after year where the city has been settling misconduct suits, and we just have no mechanism for disciplining those officers, ensuring that, going forward, we’re not going to have the same kind of misconduct suits,” he said.

Wefel said he would also push the city to fully live up to its adopted Complete Streets Policy, which prioritizes non-motorized transportation and transit over cars in public right-of-way use. He would “focus our decision-making on mobility, safety and health,” he said.

Wefel said he would advocate for even more aggressive goals for reducing energy use. He described the Clean Energy Partnership — a city collaboration with utilities Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy to reduce energy use, improve efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions — as a “great thing,” but said the city should set firm targets and “front-load” emissions reduction goals for the greatest impact.

“If people believe climate change is real and a challenge we need to address, we need to develop a plan with definite goals and a path to achieving those goals,” he said.

An Andover native, Wefel attended St. Thomas University in St. Paul and earned his law degree at Creighton University in Omaha. He said growing up in a right-leaning hometown taught him to work with others who may have very different political views.

“Being a Democrat in Andover is a very lonely experience,” he said. “So, I have a lot of experience in talking to people who absolutely do not agree with me on any number of issues (and) finding a way that we can come together.”

Wefel said he’s the “detail guy” in the Ward 1 race.

“I think I am putting forward the most detailed policy platform of any of the candidates in this race,” he said, adding that he’s advocating for issues no one else is talking about, like a feed-in tariff system to encourage renewable energy production. He also supports a municipal bank for Minneapolis, an idea pushed during a December budget hearings by advocates for divesting city funds from Wells Fargo.

Another thing that sets him apart, he said, is his strong support for neighborhood organizations. Asked about surveys that show neighborhood boards lack diversity, Wefel said that’s a “valid criticism,” but added that his neighborhood organization is one of many that have been searching for ways to be more inclusive.

“The city’s goal should be making sure the neighborhood organizations do a better job of reaching out and finding ways to bring everyone in so it truly is a representative process,” he said.

After graduating from Creighton three years ago, Wefel moved to Minneapolis with his wife and established his law practice, where he specializes in estate and small business planning and civil litigation.

A Wefel for Ward 1 campaign committee was registered Dec. 1, according to county records.