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Read about awards, recognition, projects, celebrations, staff changes, and other announcements about Minnesota cities.

In remembrance 

Jeffrey T. Walker, age 69, of Cohasset, Minnesota died April 3, 2024. Walker was elected to serve on the Cohasset City Council for four years, then elected for two terms as the Mayor of Cohasset. While serving on the City Council, Jeff was proud to contribute to the building of Portage Park, Tioga Beach, purchasing and developing the Industrial Park, and building the city’s natural gas system. In 2006, he was elected as the Itasca County Auditor/Treasurer. He felt honored to hold this elected position for four terms, retiring in January 2023.

Jerome “Jerry” P. Rockvam of Spring Park passed away at the age of 85 after a short battle with cancer. A lifelong resident of the Lake Minnetonka area, Jerry served as a local political and business leader. He was elected to office in Spring Park in 1966, becoming the youngest mayor in Minnesota. Following his two-year term as mayor, he served as a council member for a term and then was again elected mayor in 1974, a post he held for 34 years until 2008. He took a short break from public service then ran again and served as Spring Park’s mayor since 2016. During his tenure, the city experienced steady population growth alongside major improvements in infrastructure development to better serve the flourishing city.

Awards and recognition

Minneapolis Becomes 2nd US City Named ‘Child Friendly City’ by UNICEF

Minneapolis has been named a “Child Friendly City” by the United Nations Child Funds (UNICEF) for its efforts to improve the lives of its youngest residents.

The designation is part of the nonprofit Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI), which was launched in 2020 and “aims to improve the safety and inclusion of children and young people, their meaningful participation, and access to equitable social services, safe and healthy living environments, play and leisure opportunities,” according to UNICEF.

Minneapolis is only the second city in the United States to be named a “Child Friendly City,” putting it just behind Houston, Texas, which received the designation in 2023.

It is not an easy process for the city to achieve, and it has been in the works for years. It comes down to the local action plan that Minneapolis leaders came up with in 2020 when they aimed to get this sort of recognition. UNICEF looks at four different areas of that action plan: emergency preparedness, youth in government, community safety, and child rights.

The President and CEO of UNICEF USA, Michael Nyenhuis, is a Minnesota native, and he says Minneapolis has been a forerunner in thinking about the rights and well-being of children.

“It goes all the way back to your former Mayor [Donald] Frasier, who put child rights on the agenda for Minneapolis and embraced the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is the largest, the most ratified human rights treaty in the world,” explained Nyenhuis. “The mayor embraced it at that time, and there are child rights champions in civil society, and within the government in Minneapolis, that we’re excited to be partnered with.”

Nyenheis says this designation doesn’t mean that the work to put children at the center is over, but more so, recognizes that this city is committed to improving the lives and well-being of children in the community and making our youth a priority.

From Fox 9

Alexandria Building Department Awarded Best in the State

The Association of Minnesota Building Officials selected Alexandria’s department as the Building Department of the Year.

The Alexandria Building Department received high praise at the state level.

The Association of Minnesota Building Officials selected Alexandria’s department as the Building Department of the Year. The Alexandria City Council talked about the honor at its Feb.12, 2024, meeting.

The award was presented at the International Code Council’s Upper Great Plains Region 3 annual educational institute in Minneapolis.

The award recognizes the city’s building department staff for their “tireless work with contractors, homeowners and commercial/industrial developers to ensure affordable public safety in the built environment and the efficient administration of construction codes.”

The department issued permits for projects that exceeded $125 million in value in each of the last two years. It annually issues nearly 1,400 permits, conducts about 3,400 inspections and already this year, has provided local building code training to more than 150 building contractors and plumbing/heating/ventilation contractors. The total area covered by the building department is 71.43 square miles.

From the Alexandria Echo Press

Kim Norton and City of Rochester Earn National Recognition for ‘Move with the Mayor’ Fall Fit Challenge

Each spring and fall, Rochester Mayor Kim Norton encourages residents to get active with the Move with the Mayor (MWTM) challenge.

Now, Rochester is receiving national recognition for taking part in the campaign. The city has received the Gold Level in the Step It Up! Success Roadmap, the highest level of achievement across the country.

Rochester was one of 30 cities that participated in the fitness challenges this year.

The fall fit challenge includes completing a ‘Step It Up! Success Roadmap’ inspired by the U.S. Surgeon General’s call to action, promoting walking, and walkable communities.

This year, Mayor Norton joined up with Med-City Marathon’s Kid’s Run and Rochester Public Schools Walk to School Day.

During the fitness challenge, participating mayors send in a year-in-review of the city’s healthy lifestyle policies and programs to the National Forum.

Cities gain points based on the achievement level in three areas: making exercise a city priority; creating communities that make physical exercise safe and accessible to all; and providing programs and rules to encourage physical activity.