Albert Lea has made economic progress

Published 1:35 pm Saturday, October 25, 2008

After serving one term on City Council, and 22 months as your mayor, I would like to say that I am encouraged by the changes and successes we have experienced. I hope you are equally optimistic about the future of Albert Lea. The foundation of this community is stronger than ever. Many citizens have become involved in city government; City Council and staff understand the impact of making good decisions, and we have formed strong relationships with levels of government beyond our city boundaries. As mayor, I remain committed to the goals set forth by the community during the Albert Lea Listens sessions and I am committed to working together to take advantage of our existing assets and create a healthy community we can all be proud of.

We need to realize that Albert Lea is being seen differently by others. As a community, we overcame hardship and rose to the challenge of defining a new identity. Albert Lea is no longer a meatpacking town but a regional center to enjoy shopping, recreation, business and a unique historic downtown. As your mayor, I have supported initiatives and decisions that will keep us moving forward. I have worked hard to capitalize on our assets.

In just two years, we have completed the Main Street flood mitigation, the Eighth Avenue lift station, and the Katherine Island bridge/shoreline stabilization. The beautiful bike/walking path with pedestrian lighting was completed from Brookside to Pioneer Park. The design and funding is in place for the airport expansion, which is a priority for future growth and economic development.

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Flying J and Aldi will move forward upon completion of the East Main Street area street system. Other significant projects are the Albert Lea Medical Center expansion, the Sunset Street extension, and business expansions such as Albert Lea Select Foods, Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen Inc. and Fountain Centers. It was a momentous occasion when Albert Lea received bonding money for the Edgewater Park Landfill cleanup, and we have received national recognition through the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, Artspace Projects, the Larson Manufacturing National Distribution Center and a new Junior A hockey team. Each of these is an accomplishment, which together will influence others to continue investing in this fine community.

Other programs and initiatives I have supported include “Cities on the Move” programming, the community policing and community service officer programs that say safety and quality of life are important to us, and the Land Between the Lakes Committee, which meets regularly to evaluate progress of the visions and goals identified during Albert Lea Listens and the Minnesota Design Team visits.

Regarding City Council meetings, I am in favor of having openness in city government and that is why I asked council to invest in the equipment necessary to broadcast live. Our preagenda meeting is simply a work session that allows council and staff the time to share information and be informed; it is not a rehearsal of the meeting. A city attorney is on staff to ensure that we follow the City Charter and City Code. This mayor and council take a proactive approach in directing the affairs of the city and direct the city manager accordingly. I am very involved and aware of what other levels of government are doing and I invite them to be present in meetings so you can hear directly from them.

The city of Albert Lea is also committed to improving quality of life in ways that are less visible but of utmost importance. The Family Services Collaborative has been chosen as the pilot community for a Children’s Mental Health & Drug Free Program. Children are our greatest asset and creating a future for them to live and work in Albert Lea is a priority for me as a leader and as a father. Like you, I want my family to be able to reach their goals and give something back to their home town.

Marketing the community for development has not taken a back seat during this tough economy, and so our economic climate continues to be strong. Much is happening because we make it a priority to place ourselves on the radar of retail, business and industrial developers across the nation. The city’s investment in infrastructure, industrial parks, downtown revitalization, clean lakes and beautiful parks encourages business opportunities, cultural amenities and activities, and a wide range of residential possibilities not only for us, but for those that may be looking to move here.

If you have 30 seconds to tell someone about Albert Lea, what would you say? We can all be ambassadors for the community. Let’s promote our successes and accomplishments, but let’s also talk about those qualities, feelings and expectations that come to mind when you hear “Albert Lea: The Land Between the Lakes.”

I appreciate your vote on Nov. 4!

Randall Erdman is the incumbent Albert Lea mayor and resides in Ward 2. He seeks a second term.