Back to the Jan-Feb 2021 issue

Bits & Briefs

An Investment in Mental Health 

Boy wearing a maskThe City of Kasson invested back into the mental health of residents this winter through the launch of the Kasson Mental Health Initiative. “The City Council and mayor felt strongly that mental health care in the COVID-19 era should not be neglected,” says City Administrator Timothy Ibisch. “We are in the Mayo System area, and many of our residents work in health care. Some of the front-line workers have been dealing with the most stress.”

Among the offerings, residents can take advantage of a free one-hour mental health phone consultation with a local provider or attend an online class on topics ranging from stress reduction to suicide prevention. City partners include local schools, Fernbrook Family Center, and the southeast Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI). Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds were dedicated to the project.

“We know that a big part of the challenge this year is not just the COVID issue itself but also the sense of loss and the physical separation that many are going through,” said Ibisch. “Other entities were dealing with the materials needs, and we wanted to support the mental health needs of the community.”

NLC’s Congressional City Conference 

Congressional City Conference, March 7-10, 2021The National League of Cities Congressional City Conference is set for March 7-10. Ready for a change of scenery? Just kidding, it’s virtual. But that means it’s easier than ever to connect with the Minnesota congressional delegation about federal issues of importance to local government and our communities. Workshops and general sessions will be dedicated to building leadership skills, digging into common locallevel issues, and getting the most out of your time with federal staff and elected officials. Learn more at

New Online Learning From LMC 

MemberLearn logoIf you’ve resolved in 2021 to learn a few new skills or just brush up old ones, it’s time to check out MemberLearn, the League of Minnesota Cities’ (LMC) new online learning platform designed for city officials. With MemberLearn, you can access courses anytime and anywhere there’s an internet connection. Classes are designed by subject matter experts and offer videos, games, and other interactive elements. Each course ranges in length from five to 30 minutes, and pricing varies. MemberLearn offers courses for both elected and appointed officials, so check back regularly and watch the LMC Cities Bulletin e-newsletter to see which new courses get added soon. Learn more at

Apply Now For All-America City Award 

stars and stripes illustrationThe National Civic League will once again recognize 10 communities this summer as All-America Cities, and the time is now for your community to apply for this national recognition. This year’s awards will highlight communities that have worked to improve equity and resilience.

To apply, you’ll need to describe the strength of your community’s civic capital — the formal and informal relationships, networks, and capacities used to make decisions and solve problems — and to provide examples of community-driven projects that have adapted and transformed your community into a more equitable and resilient place.

Over 500 communities have been named an All-America City since the program began in 1949, including 20 from Minnesota. Why does the National Civic League care? When not running the awards program, this organization provides expertise in building civic engagement to help communities thrive. The deadline to apply is Feb. 10. Learn more at

Animal Crossing

Highways and wildlife illustrationThe Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) recently released video footage of animals crossing the state’s first wildlife overpass. The overpass is a bridge built exclusively for animals that would otherwise cross to-and-fro along the interstate through their habitat, much to the peril of themselves and vehicular traffic. These structures are also called “ecoducts” and are more common in some European countries such as the Netherlands, though the first wildlife overpass in the United States was the National Wildlife Bridge over I-78 in New Jersey, built in 1986. You can see the critters — from ground squirrels to moose — on the Utah DWR’s Facebook page at UDWRfacebook.

Outside-the-Box Internships

Laurel Poole

The McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement put out the call for short-term remote opportunities this summer when their intern program had to pivot due to the pandemic. The McCarthy Center serves the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. In response, the League of Minnesota Cities hired two undergraduate interns who assisted with summer projects in a completely virtual setting.

Elijah Henderson

Elijah Henderson worked with Policy Analysis Manager Rachel Walker to do research for the League’s race equity initiatives, and Laurel Poole worked with Education Manager Adriana Temali-Smith doing research and writing scripts for The City Speak podcast. In exchange for providing experience that aligned with the students’ development and career goals, the League got an infusion of creative energy while testing the waters of remote internships. You can hear about their work in a bonus episode of the podcast, available at

Reading for Future City Rock Stars

Lindsey the GIS professional book cover

Get ready for your city’s next virtual story time! Bolton & Menk has developed a series of children’s books dedicated to introducing the younger set (ages 6-12) to science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) skills, which all conveniently lend themselves to valuable careers in the public sector.

Ned the natural resource specialist book coverThe series started as just one publication in partnership with the Smithsonian Waterways Traveling Exhibit, but soon expanded in scope to include many of the careers near and dear to our hearts. Whether it’s “Will the Civil Engineer,” “Lindsey the GIS Professional,” or “Larry the Land Surveyor,” kids (and adults!) can get a peek at the skills behind the title, and see what’s exciting about the work that these kinds of professionals do every day. In addition to inspiring a future generation of professionals, staff have also heard that people in the industry use the books to finally explain what they do for a living to their friends and families.

The eighth installment in the series, “Ned the Natural Resource Specialist,” was just released in November. Four of the books are available in hardcover format through Esri Press and have corresponding educational materials and activities. Check out all the books at