MinnPost will be regularly publishing profiles of candidates running for Minneapolis City Council. Up today: David Wheeler, running for the open seat representing Ward 10. Also in the Ward 10 race so far: Chris Parsons, Alicia Gibson, Aisha Chughtai, Katie Jones, and Steven Frich.
The upheaval that Minneapolis went through in 2020 — including the economic fallout from COVID-19 as well as the death of George Floyd and subsequent unrest — is one of the reasons why David Wheeler is running for the city’s Ward 10 council seat in 2021.
For Wheeler, the ability to manage those crises and have the city function well hinges on things he believes are in short supply at City Hall. The first is the ability to work with other people. “The most important thing is to build strong relationships,” said the 68-year-old East Harriet neighborhood resident.
The second thing is know-how. “I’m not sure that some council members really know anything about governing. Governing is a lot different than being an activist.”
Wheeler is currently the president of the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation, which sets the maximum annual property tax increase the City Council can levy, and was first elected to the board in 2009. A native of Duluth, Wheeler served on that city’s council from 1993-1997 before moving to Minneapolis.
A Yale Divinity School graduate, Wheeler is a retired minister who worked for the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. He says of the demonination: “We ordained women in the 1860s, fought slavery.” When the Hennepin Avene United Methodist Church’s invite to a gay men’s choir drew protesters, congregants welcomed the choir through the front door as a message to those who would object.
Wheeler says he will bring that sense of openness and that elective experience to City Hall, a place he said needs to focus less on infighting and more on responding to the city’s problems and realizing its ambitions.
One of those problems is public safety. Wheeler is in favor of reforming the Minneapolis Police Department, starting with disciplinary and recruiting practices. And he adamantly believes current Chief Medaria Arradondo is “absolutely the right person and the right leader at the right time,” to navigate those reforms — and to lead the city’s response to the recent crime spike.
He also believes Arradondo’s insight has been rudely dismissed by the current council, calling the way council members have addressed Arradondo “appalling.”
Wheeler attributes the increase in crime to economic issues across the city, a situation fueled by the pandemic, and said there should be more urgency in revitalizing Lake Street and incentivizing tenants to stay and return downtown.
“Am I perfect? No, but I’m bringing something no other candidate is bringing to the race,” said Wheeler. “I’ve done this before, I’ve dealt with very difficult colleagues in Duluth.”
The key to getting things done when mired in disagreement, he said, “is by being patient, thoughtful, and good-natured.”
“We have to do that, we don’t have a choice as a city.”
Candidate snapshot: David Wheeler
Occupation: retired minister; works in retail
Neighborhood: East Harriet
Favorite place in Minneapolis: The Peace Garden
Political or civic experience: Duluth City Council member; candidate for mayor of Duluth; three-term member of the Minneapolis Board of Estimate & Taxation
One-sentence reason for running: “I am running to begin the healing of a broken city.”