Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Looking Forward to 2018—A New Year's Greeting from LMC Board President Jo Emerson

 A message from Jo Emerson, LMC board president and mayor of White Bear Lake:

As 2017 draws to a close, I'm taking time to reflect on the ups and downs we have encountered at the League.

This past fall I was fortunate enough to attend all seven regional meetings around this great state. I got to meet new people and connect with old friends. Thanks to those that hosted and to all who attended. We had good conversations on how we can encourage and support the next generation of elected and appointed officials.

Personally, my thanks to League staff for all the assistance you've given me as I navigate my new role. My heart went out to those who continued to provide excellent service to members while dealing with their grief following the loss of two long time League staffers, Duke Addicks and Tom Grundhoefer in late 2016 and early 2017. While those of us on the board felt the loss, I want staff to know how appreciated their efforts on our behalf have been.

With the knowledge that there are more ups and downs to come, I look forward to 2018 and the opportunity to work on behalf of all Minnesota cities. To kick off the new year, I hope that many of you will consider joining me at the Leadership Conferences for newly elected or experienced officials in January—these are great opportunities to strengthen skills and connections with colleagues. Together we can ensure that cities continue to be the drivers of the economy, and the places where our citizens can reside in peace and harmony.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Spreading Some Cheer with 2017 Dividend Deliveries

When our member cities are happy, we're happy! So what better way to spread some cheer all around than to deliver good news to cities in person? That's exactly what several staffers got to do recently when dividend checks for League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust members needed to be delivered. Many more staffers pitched in to stuff envelopes (check out that teamwork!), which were sent off via mail. All told, $6 million will be returned to members of the property/casualty program as a result of your dedication to staying safe and reducing claims. Good job, Minnesota cities, and let's keep smilin' in 2018! Curious? Learn more about the dividend here.

League staff from all over the building pitch in every year to stuff dividend envelopes.

Brooklyn Park City Manager Jay Stroebel and Assistant Finance Director Jeanette Boit-Kania
(left and middle) show off their dividend smiles delivered by LMC's Pam Whitmore.

Hastings City Administrator Melanie Mesko Lee
(left) accepts her dividend from LMC staffer Kellie Sundheim.

Inver Grove Heights City Administrator Joe Lynch (left) receives a festive dividend
delivery from LMC's Donyelle Mikacevich.

Watertown City Administrator Shane Fineran (left) takes a moment to meet
with LMC's Deputy Director Luke Fischer, dividend deliverer extraordinaire.

Mendota Heights Finance Director Kristin Schabacker (right) is lookin’ cheery
and bright as LMC’s Laura Kushner delivers her city’s dividend.

Photo credit goes to several dividend helper elves.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Photos: Winter Carnival Fun and Fundraiser at LMC

League staff and board members gathered for an hour of fun prior to the last board meeting of the year. While several carnival-style games and some fierce department competition kept spirits high, the real lift came from the opportunity to support a neighborhood foodshelf and one of the League's charitable giving organizations. 

Through a canned good "admission ticket" as well as matching donations from Executive Director Dave Unmacht and department heads, carnival-goers were able to collect 10 boxes of food for Keystone Community Services and over $300 in donations for the United Way. And if anyone is wondering, it turns out tech services is really good at carnival games. Like, really good.

Loss Control Rep Liz Tadsse (blue) prepares for her next ping pong toss.

Executive Assistant Kellie Sundheim and Deputy Director Luke Fischer
face off in the water bottle flip competition.

Silence in the gallery as board member Sue Hilgert
watches her putt.
HR Director Laura Kushner announces competition results.

Time to box up the food for its journey to Keystone!

 Photo credit goes to LMC staffers Jeff Korte and Danielle Cabot

Friday, November 10, 2017

Strengthening the Relationship Between City Employers and Active Military Reserve and Guard Employees

Support for veterans and active members of the military reserve is key to walking the walk as a great employer—and public employers are no different. These employees and the skills they bring from their military service can be found in every local government profession, and understanding how to comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to support those still actively serving is key to a successful relationship between employer and employee.

The League is working to strengthen that relationship in our own organization, and is proud to have received the "Above and Beyond Award" in 2017 from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) program. ESGR is a Department of Defense program established to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers. At the League's November board meeting special guest Matthew Meyer, volunteer ombudsman for the ESGR, was present to deliver the Above and Beyond Award.

Jo Emerson receives the Above and Beyond Award from ESGR Volunteer
Ombudsman Matthew Meyer on behalf of the League at November's board meeting.
The award recognizes the League’s support for our staff to participate in guard and reserve duties. Ryan Zipf and Patrick Arneson, both of whom are litigation attorneys and in the Army Reserve, nominated the League of Minnesota Cities. Thank you to Ryan and Patrick for your nomination, but most importantly, for your service.

Other local government employers recognized in 2017 with the Above and Beyond Award were Saint Paul Emergency Management, the Paynesville Police Department, and Three Rivers Park District- The Landing.

Statement of Support
Meyer was also present to witness LMC President Jo Emerson sign the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Statement of Support.The statement formally recognizes LMC’s commitment and support of its employees who also serve as citizen soldiers. You can see which Minnesota employers have signed the statement of support and learn more on the ESGR website.

ESGR's Matthew Meyer and LMC Executive Director Dave Unmacht
observe LMC President Jo Emerson sign the ESGR Statement of Support.

USERRA resources for cities
Beyond recognition, the ESGR also provides educational resources to help employers understand USERRA and resolve employment problems related to guard and reserve service before they escalate. Cities can access information about the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) on the ESGR website to learn more.

Members of the executive committee gathered with some of the League's
veterans and active service members for a photo.

Here's the ESGR statement of support:

We fully recognize, honor, and comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

We will provide our managers and supervisors with the tools they need to effectively manage employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.

We appreciate the values, leadership, and unique skills Service members bring to the workforce and will encourage opportunities to hire Guardsmen, Reservists, and Veterans.

We will continually recognize and support our country’s Service members and their families, in peace, in crises, and in war.

For more information about ESGR, visit

Photo credit goes to League staffer Jeff Korte

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Veterans Day 2017 Message From LMC's Executive Director

A Veterans Day message from Executive Director Dave Unmacht:
My great uncle, George Unmacht, (grandfather’s brother) was a colonel in World War II. We have a family photo of him being recognized by President Harry Truman in a White House ceremony in June 1947.  He is the most decorated veteran in our family.  Colonel Unmacht has gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.; Linwood Cemetery in his hometown of Dubuque, Iowa; and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii where he is buried. I never met my great uncle as he died before I was born; I have personally visited all three gravestones. 

Stories passed on to his family note that he—like countless individuals before and after him—was a proud veteran who committed his life to serving his country in the military.
We rightfully respect and value our veterans each day, however, on Veterans Day this November we want to recognize and extend our heartfelt thanks to all men and women who have served or are serving in the military.  Beyond their military service, many of these same men and women have continued to contribute to public service through involvement in city government as elected officials or staff.
It is with honor and respect on behalf of the League of Minnesota Cities Board of Directors and staff that I want to express our gratitude to all former and current members of our military for your dedication and commitment to this country. I am very proud of my great uncle for his service and of all veterans who deserve special recognition on this day and every day.
LMC Executive Director David Unmacht

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Spotted: More Bright Ideas From 2017 Regional Meetings

City officials gathered in Granite Falls and New Ulm on Oct. 11 and 12 to share bright ideas and shed some light on pressing city government issues (see what we did there?). Here are a few snapshots taken on the road!

Thanks to our Granite Falls hosts for a great Regional Meeting!

Heather Corcoran, IGR staffer, and Sue Hilgert,
mayor of Olivia, put their heads together for local gov.

Lively topics at the 2017 Regional Meetings include next generation
leaders, technology, LMC services, and a legislative review.

New Ulm City Manager Brian Gramentz offers a comment
while IGR Director Gary Carlson facilitates the mic-passing.

A big thanks to the staff and elected officials from host city
New Ulm for attending.

City officials and business partners have some bright ideas
for the future of Minnesota cities!

City officials from Stewartville, Nerstrand, and Spicer were ready to learn
and share local gov know-how.

The 2017 Regional Meetings will be gone in a flash! Check out the final dates to register for a location near you.

Photo credit goes to LMC staffers Heather Corcoran, Gary Carlson, and Danielle Cabot

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Crystal Clear View of Water Infrastructure Data

The State Auditor Infrastructure Stress Transparency
Tool is ready for fall, and for your data needs.
A tech dispatch from Mel Reeder, chief information officer at the League:

Do you find data to be clear as mud? Actually, information about city water treatment is now clear as clean water! The Office of the State Auditor (OSA) recently released their interactive map tool. This quick tool was given a long name: “State Auditor Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool Version 2.0.”

Don’t let that scare you—accessing enormous amounts of information is quicker than saying the tool’s name.

Here are just a small handful of the filters available
to hone in on just the info you need.
By using one click of your mouse (ok, maybe two clicks) you can display data onto a map of Minnesota and quickly gain insight about drinking water, water treatment, and the infrastructure within Minnesota cities, counties, water basins, or watersheds. It’s all there! The age of sewer systems is displayed in three colors for easy identification. By using color and graphics large amounts of data about Minnesota’s water becomes crystal clear.

In addition to infrastructure age, you can dig into other significant details and compare city systems side-by-side. Too much information? No problem, there is a filter for that too.

I encourage you to venture into the OSA tool. You will quickly get a clear picture of your city water and treatment infrastructure too.

City-specific data. Oh yeah.
The tool was launched about a year and a half ago and was developed with feedback collected by the State Auditor during statewide tours (one of the stops was here at the League!). The update was supported by a grant from the Bush Foundation.

Watch a video overview of the State Auditor's Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool Version 2.0

Check out the Minnesota State Auditor's Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool

Friday, October 6, 2017

Spotted: Bright Ideas Being Shared at the 2017 Regional Meetings

The 2017 Regional Meetings are officially underway! We've kicked off this first week in Thief River Falls, Ottertail, and Melrose. Here are a few scenes from the road:

League of Minnesota Cities staffers Gary Carlson (Intergovernmental Relations Director)
and Laura Harris (Training & Conferences Manager) arrive to a beautiful day in Thief River Falls.

Little Falls City Administrator Jon Radermacher shares
his key messages from a small-group communications activity.

LMC Communication Coordinator Danielle Cabot discusses
strategies for how best to communicate change to your community.

Thief River Falls City Administrator Rod Otterness and Bemidji Councilmember
Nancy Erickson talk about ways to identify and support future leaders in our communities.

Ottertail Mayor Myron Lueders welcomes attendees to his city.

Andrew Martin, Regional Director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar,
talks with city leaders during a break.

Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) Member Relations Coordinator
Heather Corcoran shares what is on deck for the 2018 Legislative Session.

Brian Fredrickson, Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota,
leads city officials in a discussion about how to build trust in our communities.

Thank you to our conference sponsors, Business Leadership Council
members Bolton & Menk and Ehlers, Inc.
The meetings are off to a great start! Will we see you at one of the remaining locations? We hope you'll join us to share bright ideas about how to propel Minnesota cities into a brighter tomorrow!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Building Trust, Building Community

Trust is vital to successful human relationships. So what does this have to do with Minnesota cities?

Christy Kallevig, Extension Educator with the Extension Center for Community Vitality, will be one of the presenters at the 2017 Regional Meetings who will facilitate the “Strengthening Trust in Communities” session. She was generous enough to share some thoughts in advance of our meetings:

What makes trust an important topic to focus on?
We all have different reasons as to why this topic is important. I feel that it is important to understand trust because it is a complicated topic that has more layers to it than many realize. The way that we build trust in our interactions with co-workers, neighbors, and citizens helps to shape the community in which we live, work, and play. If we don't work on building trust and caring for it, we stand to lose our partners who we are working with to build community, and our communities lose their vibrancy.

Why should city officials in particular put energy into building trust?
When you build trust at multiple levels in your community, you are building a strong base on which you can grow. When community members feel that there is trust between themselves and their elected and appointed officials, they are more willing to engage in conversations and work towards a common cause. You also create a more positive work culture between elected officials, city staff, and contractors when you pay attention to how trust is built and cared for in your community. All of these factors combine to make your community a more desirable place to be.

How can the presence of trust—or lack of it—manifest itself in a community?
We are never truly able to say that trust does or does not exist in our community. Because trust can look so different to each person and be felt differently by each individual, we must constantly be working on trust. We must be looking at our interactions, how we respond to regrettable incidents, and how we manage conflict. It is only by being mindful about these things that we can work to create trusting communities.

What will people who attend your upcoming training leave knowing how to do?
After our session, people will walk away with a tool that they can use to assess trust in situations, as well as a better understanding of what trust is and how it is built.

Christy and her colleagues will be presenting at each one of our 2017 Regional Meetings (which begin next week already!), and it's sure to be an informative session. We hope to see you there!

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Sep-Oct Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine Is Now Online

Kick off the fall season with a great read—the Minnesota Cities magazine! The Sep-Oct issue covers stories on local leaders and city projects as well as relevant state and nationwide topics.

Here’s the scoop:

This issue’s cover story features two “city champions,” Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider and Spring Lake Park City Administrator and Clerk-Treasurer Daniel Buchholtz. Schneider’s respected character and leadership led him to being named the 2017 C.C. Ludwig Award winner, and Buchholtz’s work restoring trust in his community is just one reason he received this year’s James F. Miller Leadership Award. Slow clap.

Have you ever thought about using a drone to capture images, videos, and information on your community? The cities of Red Wing and Champlin have done it! Both cities took advantage of drones to help craft their plans for upcoming city projects. Find out all the benefits drones have to offer in The Bird’s-Eye Advantage of Using Drones.

A revival of protests around the nation and here in Minnesota has many city officials asking, “How should I handle this?” This issue's Letter of the Law column can help clarify what local leaders need to know about preserving public safety as well as freedom of speech.

Other highlights include LMC Executive Director David Unmacht’s tips for acing interviews, a look at how city officials are advancing racial equity in their communities, and how Hutchinson is addressing a skilled workforce shortage.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A League Intern Rides Along with the West St. Paul PD

In June, Khongpheng Vang joined the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust as an intern through the City of St. Paul’s Right Track Program. Vang is a senior at Johnson High School and takes advanced classes toward college credit in the areas of algebra, history, chemistry, and writing. Recently, he got the opportunity to ride along with the West St. Paul Police Department and writes about it below.

On August 17, I had the opportunity through my internship at the League of Minnesota Cities to visit the West St. Paul Police Department and ride along with Officer Baumeister. I got to experience and understand more of what happens during the daily life of a police officer. I saw many new things like the different rooms that make up a police department—including jail cells and interrogation and evidence rooms. I even experienced what it was like to pull over two vehicles during this ride-along. My time with Officer Baumeister was great and allowed me to explore another possible government career.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Attention Students: Share How You Would Spotlight City Careers by Oct. 13!

Charity, one of the essay contest winners from 2015, stopped
by the Cities Matter booth this year! Charity got her
essay form  in 2015 from the state fair, but you can also
find it online at
Students can find reminders of the value of local government careers everywhere—when riding the bus, walking on sidewalks to a friend’s house, checking out books at their local library, or drinking clean water at a park drinking fountain. Without city employees, these everyday activities would not be possible.

For the 2017 Mayor for a Day Essay Contest, the League wants to hear how fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders who live in Minnesota answer this question: If you were mayor for a day, what would you do to show people that local governments are good places to work?

Three winners will be awarded $100, and their essays will be published in Minnesota Cities magazine.

To find out more about local government careers and why city employees love what they do, essay writers can visit the careers section of the Cities Matter webpage. There students will find what real people have to say about their jobs working in cities, and can see how visitors to the Minnesota State Fair learned more about which city careers need their “superpowers."

Essay submissions must be sent to the League by Oct. 13, so download an entry form for a child you know today! 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Q&A with Engineering Director Debra Heiser from the City of St. Louis Park on Small Cell Wireless

During the 2017 legislative session, a new law was enacted that allows small cell wireless equipment to be installed on city-owned infrastructure. As deadlines to comply with the new law approach, you might be wondering what exactly does your city need to do to comply.

Debra Heiser, engineering director with the City of St. Louis Park, talked about how her city worked with wireless providers earlier this year (prior to the new law passing in the legislature) to come to an agreement on placing small cells in the city’s densely populated West End area.

St. Louis Park reached an agreement with a wireless provider on small cell antennas in February. What was St. Louis Park’s process for approaching small cell wireless?
We worked out a master license agreement with Verizon to allow co-location on city owned poles. We worked with them for a year on location, aesthetics, and more. Once the license agreement was reached, Verizon handled all the installation and then they worked with their contractor. The city handled the installation just like anything else going in the right of way—we did monitor the installation, to make sure it matched the agreement, but the installation was 100% Verizon.

How were locations to install this technology chosen in St. Louis Park?
We’ve all been to places or events where we have slow data. As people become more dependent on data and their smart phones, and when there are places where a lot of people are potentially on their phones, there’s a lot of demand for data. So as people become use technology more, wireless providers are noticing holes in their coverage in these busy areas. These small cells are repeaters that help fill those holes in coverage, so densely populated areas are the focus for this technology.

How did the installation process work?
The installation is complete and took two weeks. There wasn’t a lot of disruption to the community, except that there was construction on the street while the installation was happening. For the installation, the company wanted to collocate on some banner poles, so they ordered structural poles to accommodate the equipment, ran fiber optics to the poles, and handled restoring the installation area to what it looked like before the work was done.

What do you think other cities should know as they work to comply with the new provisions?
Have a clear process and expectations with the provider. We had a couple hiccups during the process. An example was with power usage. The provider wanted to use the power that was used to light the poles, but photo cells provide the power on the light poles, so they don’t work during the daylight. That was one thing we tried to anticipate and let the provider know that was the case. Make sure you talk about anything that can happen.

Is there any other advice you’d like to pass on to cities working on their own small cell wireless agreements?
Be proactive. Get your ordinance and your set right now. If you have questions, look at what other cities have done.

Want more background information, details on the new law, and examples from a city that’s already started the small cell installation process? Don’t miss a free webinar hosted by the League on Sept. 12. The live webinar will be available to anyone who wants to view it online. Local government officials and those who are employed by a city can also view the webinar live at the League and discuss ideas and concerns with other local government officials after the webinar. If you can't take part in the live viewing, you can watch a recording of the webinar once it's posted online.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spotted: Discover Your Superpower at the Minnesota State Fair

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the Minnesota State Fair! 

This year you'll find the Cities Matter campaign in the same familiar booth in the Education Building, but with a whole new look and activity. We're dedicating our 12 days of fair goodness to promoting the value of city careers and encouraging the next generation of future leaders to check out opportunities that cities have to offer.

If you are visiting the fair this year, be sure to try out the new interactive quiz to discover your "superpower," learn more about city careers that can help you make a difference in your community, and of course say hi to League staff and board members working the booth.

The Cities Matter campaign was launched in 2009 by the League of Minnesota Cities to educate the public about cities and the services they provide. You can check out the Cities Matter website to see all-new content that features city staffers and elected officials talking about what it's really like to work in Minnesota cities. These city superheroes are the real deal! 

Together we hope that the website and the booth are a dynamic duo that will bring some pow! into promoting local government careers and the important work that city officials do every day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Spotted: Welcoming New Board Members and Old Traditions

LMC staff gave a big welcome to new members of the board of directors on July 20, when these fresh faces gathered with the returning board for their first official meeting. And then we made them pose for awkward photos. Thanks, all! You make these obligatory moments look good! Please help us welcome from left to right: Curt Boganey, city manager of Brooklyn Center; Justin Miller, city administrator of Lakeville; Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and CGMC representative; Lynn Kissock, mayor of Maple Lake; and Gary Hansen, city councilmember in Eagan and Metro Cities representative.

Also on the agenda was a presentation near and dear to our hearts. Tradition holds that the outgoing president of the League board presents to the League a piece of framed art representing their city. These mementos are hung throughout the building, reminding us daily of the special places that we serve, and the great people that have gotten us to where we are today. Thanks to outgoing president Rhonda Pownell (right), mayor of Northfield, for this meaningful gift, and thanks to incoming president Jo Emerson (left), mayor of White Bear Lake, for accepting it!

Photo credit goes to League staffers Danielle Cabot and Laura Zenz

Friday, June 16, 2017

Spotted: Around the 2017 LMC Annual Conference—Friday, June 16

Discussing issues important to cities with municipal colleagues, exploring the signs of a vibrant city, and hearing how to manage information made for a full and informative final day of the conference! Check out some highlights below:

Throughout the conference, city officials shared pressing topics that they wanted to discuss with colleagues. Friday morning, they sat down to explore topics including: social media use, small city revitalization, federal advocacy, and workforce housing. (Photo credit LMC staffer Katie Davidson)

How do communicating spending, hot legal topics, supporting new Americans, and employee engagement contribute to vibrant cities? City officials found out during the last round of educational sessions Friday morning. (Photo credit Todd Myra Photography)

Our brains are hungry for information, but with more data coming at us now than ever before, how do we keep from getting overwhelmed? Closing keynote speaker Dr. Amit Sood took us through ways to keep our brains from being overloaded as he explained his Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) program. (Photo credit LMC staffer Jenna Kramer)

Thank you to everyone who helped make the 2017 Annual Conference great. We hope to see you next year in St. Cloud! (Photo credit LMC staffer Jenna Kramer)

What were your highlights from the 2017 Annual Conference in Rochester? Share your stories in the comments below!

Be sure to check out photos and a summary of events from Wednesday and Thursday!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Spotted: Around the 2017 LMC Annual Conference—Thursday, June 15

That’s a wrap on day two of the 2017 Annual Conference! City officials created connections, heard from inspiring speakers, explored the exhibit hall, and more during today’s jam-packed program. Some highlights:

Did you know? 42% of Minnesotans live in GreenStep Cities communities! Will Seuffert of the Environmental Quality Board spoke about environmental opportunities and ways Minnesota can move forward.

Craig Waldron, co-director of the Center for Public Administration and Leadership at Hamline University, gave a preview of his session “Growing Social Capital” during today’s new event “Short Takes on Big Trends and Issues.” During this Ted Talk-like presentation, Craig spoke about the importance of creating connections in our communities and building social capital to create healthy, vibrant cities.

"I applaud you for seizing this opportunity to serve your people.” Clarence Anthony, executive director of the National League of Cities, traveled to Rochester to speak with Minnesota city officials. Clarence talked about the unique role city officials play in leading their community, and how he went from being elected to city council at the age of 24 to advocating for cities at the national level as the executive director of the National League of Cities.

Do you recognize that familiar face? Former Executive Director of the League, Jim Miller (second from L) helped present an award named in his honor, the James F. Miller Leadership Award, to Daniel Buchholtz, city administrator with Spring Lake Park (second from right).

Good luck on your retirement, Pete! League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust Administrator Pete Tritz celebrated his upcoming retirement after 43 years of working at the League—complete with a custom cake based off his mandola.

What happened during the 2017 Legislative Session? The League’s Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) team hosted a happy hour in the exhibit hall where they chatted with city officials about the recent session and fielded questions on topics important to cities.

It’s been a great day in Rochester! City officials from all over the state created connections and explored the signs of a vibrant city during the 2017 Annual Conference.

In case you missed them, check out highlights from Wednesday, June 14 at the conference!

What are your highlights from this year in Rochester? Share them in the comments below!

(Photo credit: Todd Myra Photography)