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Crosslake Mayor's Notebook: Signs of a vibrant city

Minnesota mayors have the opportunity to attend conferences hosted by the League of Minnesota Cities. For me, as a newer member of local government, these have been wonderful opportunities to learn about the nuances of good governing.

In addition, the ability to meet and network with government officials from other communities has been invaluable. What one soon discovers is that no matter what the size of the community — big or small — there is a commonality that runs through us all: comprehensive planning, roads, sewers, parks, budgets, environment, housing and the list goes on.

Last summer, the annual conference was held in Rochester, and the theme was "Signs of a Vibrant City." Welcoming, healthy, collaborative, connected, creative — those five words define any community in Minnesota.

So, how do these "Signs of a Vibrant City" apply to Crosslake? And, how can we as city officials develop the necessary skills to help create a community that's open to new ideas, open for business and open for everyone?

I think we've made a good start with our updated comprehensive plan. You will be able to view the plan on the city website before it goes to council for approval. What you will see is a "Plan for the Future" together with the steps we are taking to become a stronger, more resilient community.

While we certainly need to be able to adapt and change with whatever happens along the way, we must be thinking 20-50 years into the future as we explore more sustainable ways to approach planning, development and economic growth.

Creating an inclusive community was one of the sessions I found most valuable. Our community will see our demographic change to an older population, with growth also in the millennial generation. So we need to be preparing a place for all people, from improving quality of life to building trust and connecting with others. That starts with a solid plan and a review of goals and priorities at every budget cycle.

Building community capacity was another notable session for me. As I read through the "Handbook for New Mayors" more than a year ago, there was one sentence in particular that has stayed with me ever since: "Cities are more successful when the citizens play an active role in the running of the city."

A good example of that in Crosslake is our storm sewer runoff project. You may be aware that we now have stormwater running directly into the Whitefish Chain. But do you know that we also have a team actively trying to solve that problem?

The project team consists of city, county and local staff as well as resident volunteers all working together in an effort to find a solution that will protect water quality in our lakes. This sort of collaboration provides better results as well as strengthens our community. More importantly, it can prepare and empower the next generation of leaders!

Communication and engagement was another good session. Yes, we have good media coverage and our council meetings are open to the public and on YouTube and local TV. And yet, I still feel we have not been able to reach the majority of the community or even peaked their curiosity with regard to Crosslake and its city government.

Finding an effective way to communicate with a wider variety of stakeholders will be necessary if we are to engage more people and achieve our goals. So in 2018, this is one area that we will focus on improving through a more efficient and effective website and use of social media.

I strongly believe Crosslake is moving in the right direction toward creating a more connected and collaborative city that gets things done. However, as we move through the coming year, here are some questions we must ask ourselves:

• How can we create new partnerships within our community?

• How do we get ready for future challenges and opportunities?

• How do we communicate more effectively with the public, the media and our colleagues?

• How do we continue to build a community that everyone will be proud to call home?

This article reflects my personal perspectives and opinions and does not necessarily speak for the council as a whole. So if you have questions or concerns with anything, stop in at city hall from 12:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesdays for a cup of coffee or just to chat.

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