Monday, March 11, 2019

Northern MN Provides Warm Welcome During the 2019 Polar Vortex

 By Kevin Staunton, Edina city councilmember and member of LMC Board of Directors

“It’s a zip your coat up kind of day,” said Baudette City Councilmember Marla Carlson. We were finishing up our lunch with her and other officials from Baudette, Blackduck, and Little Fork at Rosalie’s Restaurant and Lounge. With temperatures hovering around -25 degrees on Jan. 29, it was Marla’s way of acknowledging that it might have been a tad bit colder than usual, but it was nothing the local residents couldn’t handle.

Some of our gracious city hosts gathering in Baudette.

You might be wondering what I (a city councilmember from Edina) was doing in Baudette during the 2019 Polar Vortex. It was the latest of the visits Luke Fischer (the League of Minnesota Cities’ deputy director) and Dan Greensweig (the LMC Insurance Trust administrator) have been making around the state to meet city officials where they live and work. As a member of the League Board of Directors, I was invited to tag along. On this trip, we covered 950 miles and visited eight cities in six counties. We met with 38 city officials from 18 cities and attended two city council meetings (and even popped across the Canadian border for an impromptu visit to Rainy River, Ontario). Oh–and survived temperatures of -38F and wind chills dipping as low as -64F.

These trips provide us with the chance to meet folks in their own communities and gain a greater understanding of what those communities are all about. On that score, this particular trip did not disappoint. Despite the cold weather, we got to take in some of the local sites (did you know, for instance, that the Laurentian Continental Divide crosses County Road 39 just south of Blackduck, that the giant walleye in Baudette is named Wally, and that Mayor Bob Marvin of Warroad has an amazing collection of classic cars on public display at The Shed?) But more importantly, we got the chance to learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing cities in north central Minnesota.

I have two big takeaways from the trip. First, the city officials we had a chance to visit with—both elected and appointed—were all amazing, dedicated folks working hard to make their cities the best they can be. Second, this part of the state has a lot going for it. With thriving major employers joining traditional agricultural and tourism businesses, there are lots of opportunities for communities to prosper. Challenges for cities, though, include providing the infrastructure to attract housing development (both the traditional infrastructure like sewer, water, and roads and 21st Century infrastructure like broadband), helping facilitate day care services, and providing ambulance services.

These are familiar challenges to those of us who serve in local government. The League of Minnesota Cities is uniquely positioned to help cities in north central Minnesota and throughout the state by providing training, research assistance, legislative advocacy, and risk management. A few days hanging out with dedicated community leaders in this area of our state is a good reminder that we can all learn from each other, and constantly work to improve the lives of our residents.

LMCIT Administrator Dan Greensweig and Wally the Walleye

The City Spot Blog periodically publishes dispatches from city officials. Do you have a submission for The City Spot? Contact for more information.

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