By David Unmacht
The League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) is fortunate to have dedicated and committed city officials serving on our Board of Directors. The Board has 19 individuals, including a four-member Executive Committee and 15 additional members — each serving one-, two-, or three-year terms.
The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul each have their own designated representative, as do our colleague associations: Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, Metro Cities, and the Minnesota Association of Small Cities. The Board meets approximately 10 times each year, and it is truly a volunteer labor of love with no stipend or per diem either for meetings or time served. I have worked with nearly 75 city officials in my six years at the League and, without exception, they are passionate in their service to all cities.
The Executive Committee consists of the president, first and second vice presidents, and the past president. A lot is asked of and a lot is given by individuals on this leadership team. My staff and I have worked with 11 city officials on this committee in my six years as executive director.
One of the joys of our work is traveling across our state to meet with city officials — in their city halls, community centers, fire halls, or local cafes. The Board’s Executive Committee members are central to our visits and join staff to witness firsthand the experiences of our members.
We get to know all Board members but, due to windshield time while visiting cities, staff have more opportunities to share and learn a lot with our Executive Committee. Our 2021 visits concluded in mid-December. This fall alone, we reached 87 cities and approximately 141 members. For the entire year, we totaled 160 cities and 290 members (see the map).
The goal of our visits is to listen and learn. Ely Council Member Heidi Omerza, who served as the 2018-2019 LMC president, remarked often that two of the best outcomes of these meetings were building relationships and gaining new friends — which she did a great job doing.
The same can be said of Hopkins City Manager Mike Mornson. Mike traveled extensively during his tenure as 2019- 2020 president and throughout his four years on the Executive Committee. He loved it; his gregarious personality was always on full throttle, building trust with our members wherever we went.
Past President and Minnetonka Mayor Brad Wiersum, a co-pilot in many car rides across the prairie with League Deputy Director Luke Fischer and me, tells us often that meeting city leaders in their towns is one of the most enjoyable activities he has done on the Board. He says he never ceases to learn something new, especially about how each city is unique. Brad routinely shares the apt quote from leadership consultant Chad Weinstein: “When you have met one city, you have met one city.”
First Vice President and Bemidji Council Member Ron Johnson has gone on the road with us for two years, and he puts a lot of miles on his truck serving the League. Ron knows that the challenges of being a city official seem to be getting more complex, but a hopeful trend he sees is the optimism and energy our city officials bring to their jobs. “I see eyes light up and smiles on faces when mayors, council members, and staff talk and brag about their city and community; the pride remains, despite the challenges they face,” Ron says.
Second Vice President and Nisswa City Administrator Jenny Max enjoyed her first round of city visits this fall. Nisswa, a tourist community in the heart of the Brainard-Baxter Lakes area, has its own share of visitors from the state and upper Midwest. “People come from all over to see my city; now I get to travel to see their cities,” Jenny says.
“These meetings are valuable for us and our members. We learn a lot and this knowledge helps us understand issues from many different perspectives.”
League President and Centerville Mayor D. Love, who also serves on the LMC Insurance Trust Board, travels with us to all four corners of the state as well. With work and family, we honestly don’t know how he fits it all into his demanding schedule. His passion for the League is strong, and he is famous for giving out mayoral pens and League swag with the message, “Stronger Together.” No truer words have been spoken.
David Unmacht is executive director of the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 281-1205.