Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Biggest Claim in LMCIT History: 15 Years Ago This Week

"Everyone from St. Peter has a tornado story if they were around at the time," explains St. Peter City Administrator Todd Prafke, remembering a natural disaster that happened 15 years ago this week.

Prafke has served on the boards of both the League of Minnesota Cities and the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT).

On March 29, 1998 a tornado swept through the city of 11,000 residents and roughly 3,000 homes. Tornadoes that were part of the same supercell storm also hit the cities of Comfrey and Le Center.

When the storm cleared in St. Peter, one person had died. Approximately 200 homes were completely destroyed, 400 had damage that made them unsafe to live in, and 1,200 more had storm damage and were in need of repair. Seven counties in Minnesota were declared Federal Disaster Areas.

There were 76 parcels of city property damaged, including the library (destroyed) and City Hall's roof (missing).

Prafke, who had been appointed St. Peter's city administrator only four months prior, made the call to LMCIT for help, and what he received, he says, was a much needed source of support and resources.

Watch these highlights of an interview with Prafke to find out what an impact LMCIT played in St. Peter's recovery, and how Prafke thinks the city has recovered since then. (Spoiler Alert: St. Peter is stronger and more dynamic than ever.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Snapshots: League Women Past and Present

The role that women have played in League history has evolved just as quickly as their roles in the communities they serve. And while it's easy to see the contributions of women to municipal government today, you have to dig a little deeper to get the story from past decades.
From the peripheral “women’s programs” at our earliest annual conferences to today’s leaders including League President Betsy Hodges, women have come a long way. And while great strides have been made, the journey is far from over.

A few notable snapshots in time:

A handful of female spouses attend the 1936 Annual Conference held in Detroit Lakes. In addition, one Mrs. Libby Laderman of Minneapolis attends in her capacity as the supervisor of the Minneapolis Transient Bureau, and Lillian J. Riddler attends in her capacity as the Indian Service field nurse of Park Rapids.
The spouses of city officials are entertained for a portion of annual conferences in a separate League program while the men attend workshops focused on city business. Generally, conference host cities pull out all the stops when planning. Highlights include fashion shows, golf outings, country club luncheons, a gift-wrapping demonstration at 3M, and a tour of the Betty Crocker Kitchens at General Mills. Yum.

Miss Marie Peisenger, the first female city councilmember of Northfield, presents at that year’s annual conference on a panel discussion entitled, "Refuse Collection and Disposal Practice." She is one of a handful of women in attendance. According to the Willmar Daily Tribune, Peisenger was also the first woman on the State Board of Pharmacy (she was a pharmacist and owned a pharmacy/gift shop).

Bernice “Bea” Fairfax starts working for the League as a typist and rises to become office manager and secretary to three executive directors: C.C. Ludwig, Orville Peterson, and Dean Lund. You know the saying, “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman.”

Joyce Joyner, mayor of Osseo, is named the first woman elected to the League’s executive board. Her sons, Albert (left) and Orlyn (right), serve as clerk and planning commissioner, respectively, for Brooklyn Park.

Police Chief Robert McLane of Willmar steps up at the League’s Annual Convention to advocate for hiring women into light police work. Women were already finding success in commerce, law and medicine, but had not been widely accepted in law enforcement. McLane said his female employees had excellent attendance and worked with the public in a polite manner. They also eliminated the need to call an officer’s wife when a woman was arrested.
Meg Bye is named the first female president of the League’s board. Following her term, 13 women have served in the position over the past 33 years.

The role of women in government continues to grow, as reflected in League staff and membership (check out our March 6 post for a few nifty statistics). What do you think is on the horizon for future generations of women in government? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Keeping Cities Safe Over the Century

You’re probably wondering the same thing we were: what on earth is that contraption?! We found this advertisement in the League's December 1917 issue of Minnesota Municipalities magazine and just had to do a little research.

It turns out the "chief" is an early 911 system.  Made and sold by the W. S. Nott Company of Minneapolis, it was a means to notify the fire department of a fire. The sequence of the bell rings indicated from where in the city the fire call was originating. It appears this was one of the first alarms to use electricity, which meant it did not have to be wound like a clock.

While the “chief” certainly represented progress and new technology at the turn of the 20th century, we’re happy to report that public safety technology has improved in leaps and bounds since then!

For the last 100 years, the League has proudly offered practical training and guidance for a whole cross-section of public employees.

Join us as we continue this tradition at the 2013 Safety & Loss Control Workshops, where you will learn tips and tricks for managing risks and common safety challenges in today’s 21st century world.

We’ll be traveling to nine different locations across the state in March and April, covering topics for a wide variety of city staff—hope to see you there! Visit www.lmc.org/LCW13Blog for more information.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In Celebration of Women's History Month

Two women attended the first-ever LMC Annual Conference in 1913.

Out of 114 attendees at the League’s 1913 annual conference, only two were women.

Given the moment in history, this is probably unsurprising. Females were still trying to get a toe-hold in the world of politics at that time, and the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution—granting women the right to vote—was still seven years away.

But times have changed, and the face of city government in Minnesota has transformed substantially over the last century. Today, 25% of all elected city officials in the state are women. Of those, 127 women are mayors and 953 are councilmembers. And a full 77% of the cities in our state have at least one female elected official.

This represents progress—even over just the last 10 years. In 2003, only 70% of Minnesota cities had at least one female elected official.

It makes you wonder: how many more city seats will women gain over the next decade? How about the next century?

Whatever the future holds, were they still with us today, we bet those women at the 1913 LMC conference would be proud.