By Mike Mornson
My term as the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) president came to an end in June, but it seems like it was just yesterday that 2019-2020 LMC President Heidi Omerza was handing the presidency over to me. Heidi told me to enjoy the year because it goes by fast. Boy, how right she was. I began my tenure last summer with new member orientation in July, a Board retreat in September, and various regional meetings toward the end of the year and, before I knew it, it was 2020.
In January, League staff, Board members, and I met with newly elected city officials at the Elected Leaders Institute, planned the LMC Legislative Conference, and made two trips to Washington, D.C. I remember joking with Board members at the January meeting that soon Dave Unmacht (LMC executive director) will get his wish: The Mornson Presidency will come to an end in just six short months.
Then, on March 12, time seemed to stall due to the coronavirus pandemic. The weeks of my presidency that were once flying by came to a screeching halt. It felt like the movie “Groundhog Day.” “We got this,” became the League motto for dealing with the pandemic. We had this, and so did all of you.
So, what do I want to reflect on? Not on COVID-19, but my favorite part of being president: Driving the entire state and attending the League’s 2019 Regional Meetings.
News Flash! We have a cool state with some great people serving as local officials. We drove through many great cities on the way to Regional Meetings.
The first meeting was in Thief River Falls. That was a long drive. Mayor Brian Holmer told some stories about the history of his city. Not only is Brian the mayor, he is also a Thief River Falls business owner. I loved the downtown!
Next, we went to Perham, the “Turtle Race Capital.” I love turtles, by the way, so I just had to get a picture of myself with the turtle statue there (shown below). I remember listening to City Manager Jonathon Smith talk about all the great things that are occurring in Perham. I was also impressed to learn that Jonathon is quite the bowler. He made it all the way to the state championships in an adult bowling league — way to go! And Perham showed us another great downtown!
In the City of Benson, we started our meeting with Mayor Terri Collins and City Clerk Glen Pederson at one of their fine dining establishments. (There are some great restaurants throughout Minnesota!) The mayor is a special education teacher at Benson Schools. All I can say is, “Wow!” Mayor Collins also designed T-shirts with the slogan, “Life is better in a small town.” It sure is. The T-shirts are currently sold out, but they were highlighted at the meeting. I am hoping the mayor brings them back into fashion!
When all was said and done, we had eight meetings, and all the cities we visited were great hosts. In Chisholm, we heard from an area mayor on the importance of mining for their area. In Waite Park, the mayor and council cracked me up with one-liners.
In Spring Valley, a very beautiful city in the southeastern part of Minnesota, we went to the Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery for lunch. I highly recommend it! And in our last Greater Minnesota stop, Sleepy Eye, we met in their new, first-class facility, the Sleepy Eye Event Center. It was truly outstanding!
The best part of being president is really all of you — meeting you in your cities, where you do your great work every day and make a difference and impact on your corner of the world. Though the last few months of my presidency did not quite go the way I had planned, I am grateful for the time I spent serving the League as president. I am thankful I was able to travel this great state and spend time with many of you local officials. Thank you for your commitment of service to your cities. We are better together and, together, “We got this.”
Mike Mornson is the city manager of Hopkins. He has served on the League Board of Directors since 2013.