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Nisswa City Council member addresses recent actions

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I would like to address the actions of this council and the events that transpired in August and provide some thoughts for going forward.

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I know all that has happened has been very stressful, hurtful and confusing. For that I apologize to the entire staff, but especially to Craig (Taylor, police chief) and Lori (Hemish, city clerk).

I don’t pretend to compare the level of anxiety I have felt to that of what Craig must have gone through and is continuing to go through or what all of the staff has had to deal with during this time, but this has been a tough time for myself and the rest of the council, too.

For me, it has been quite the learning experience, to say the least. It has opened my eyes to several things about myself and has pointed out many things I wish I would have said or done differently.

That being said, the purpose of my statement here tonight is not to dwell on the why’s or what happened but to concentrate on the future and what I and we as a council can do going forward to get us back on track, regain some trust and get back to the business of running a great city.

As I have reflected on the past month I have spent a lot of time thinking about what our job as a council really is. We do wear several different hats, but in the end I believe our primary function is to uphold and adhere to our city ordinance and to responsibly protect the tax-paying dollars of our citizens.

We need to act as good liaisons to the departments to which we have been assigned and to provide leadership and direction within those roles. I have come to believe our actions of late have fallen out of scope with what our responsibilities are and that the problem was not with any one or two individuals but with us as a council.

It seems to me that we have, for some reason, come to think we need to micromanage our city and its day-to-day activities. Someone asked me the other day what was so wrong with how things were? And you know what? I couldn’t answer that question.

As I think about it, I don’t think anything was wrong with how things were. This city has run pretty darn good for a long time now and I really don’t know why we thought we needed to change that. We have a dang good staff here, most of which have been here a long time and do a fantastic job. I’m not sure how or why we lost sight of that.

That’s not to say we cannot make some changes if we feel they are warranted. But let’s not change things just for the sake of changing. If there is a rational argument to change something, let us talk about it as a council and a staff and determine why we are changing and how it will make things better.

This is what I would like to see going forward:

• 1. At this time I will no longer support the need for a city administrator. I worked with Jan (Pierce, council member) on developing the job description for this position and was initially in favor of it. I have since changed my mind.

As I have reflected on the day-to-day operations of this city I simply do not see this as being necessary. Our department heads have done a very good job over the years of running their departments.

If there are issues that arise in the future, a more involved liaison should be able to handle this and bring any actions or suggestions to the council as a whole.

This by no means is an indictment on Loren (Wickham, city planner). I have nothing but respect and appreciation for Loren and the job he has done and continues to do.

• 2. I would like to have a workshop sometime soon and invite all department heads and staff and have an open discussion of how to best move forward. I would like this forum to be truly open for all to express opinions and make suggestions and we as a council to truly listen.

• 3. I would like the department heads to be allowed to schedule any meetings they wish at this point to discuss their departments, projects or whatever they feel they need to discuss. If a liaison is invited to be a part of that, great; if not, I don’t think we need to be involved.

Let’s trust them to make the decisions they feel they need to make or have discussions they need to have. This is why these people have been hired. Let’s let them do their jobs as they see fit.

And lastly, I would ask staff to feel free to come to your liaison or any council member or the council as a whole with any issue you feel needs attention.

Nisswa is a great town and we have great people running it. I know it will take some time to move beyond this but I do believe we will get there.

As my dad used to say: Inch by inch it’s a cinch, yard by yard it’s hard. Let’s start inching our way there.

Thank you.

(Gary Johnson read this statement at the Sept. 18 city council meeting.)

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