3 incumbents, former councilor file for city seats

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Three Albert Lea City Council incumbents, along with one former council member, were quick to file for re-election Tuesday in what was the first day of filing for city, county and state offices. 

Those to file included Albert Lea Mayor Mike Murtaugh, 2nd Ward Councilor Larry Baker, 6th Ward Councilor Al “Minnow” Brooks and former 5th Ward Councilor John Severtson. 

Mike Murtaugh

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Murtaugh said in 2008, when he first ran for mayor, one of the primary talking points of his campaign was that the city needs to live within its means. 

“I think we’ve done that, and it’s gone way beyond what was expected two years ago with the economy and how much it has had an impact on the city,” Murtaugh said. “I wouldn’t feel right about walking away now. We’re still in the middle of some potentially difficult decisions.” 

This is especially true considering the uncertainty of state funding to the cities in 2011 and beyond, he noted.

He said he’s happy to be part of a council that unanimously agreed on no general fund tax increase for 2010. 

“Due to funding reductions on a state level, we also worked with city staff to approve a 2010 general fund budget that is over $1 million less than 2009, again unanimously,” he noted. 

Murtaugh said when he ran for office in 2008, there was also a lot of debate about the transparency of the council’s Thursday preagenda workshop.

“That meeting is obviously still part of the council’s schedule, but what I feel good about is we do have an agenda that’s published for that now. We’re giving notice on it, and we are letting people know ahead of time what’s going to be discussed at the workshop.”

Larry Baker

Baker said he has decided to seek re-election because of many reasons — one of which is that he has enjoyed meeting people in his ward and in the community. 

“One of the things I ran on before was to try to improve the communication between the people in my ward and in the community,” he said. “I strive for that, and I hope that has happened.” 

He noted when people call him with questions or approach him in town, he tries to make himself available. 

“I want to continue that relationship to help people in the community understand more of what it takes to run a city and some of the tough decisions that need to be made,” Baker said. 

He also has a major focus on the downtown and sees the value of revitalizing it, he said. He pointed out that he’s been involved with the potential project through Artspace Projects Inc. and said he plans to continue that involvement, along with marketing the Freeborn National Bank Building. He also hopes to help reorganize the Broadway Ridge Renewal Fund to encourage downtown business owners to renovate their buildings. 

He said he thinks he’s in the position now where he has the experience to be as effective — if not more effective — as he’s been during his first four years in office. He likes a challenge as well. 

He thanked the people of his ward for the time he has already served and for the rest of the community as well. 

“I’m looking forward to hopefully serving another four years,” Baker said. 

Al ‘Minnow’ Brooks

Brooks, who was first elected as 6th Ward councilor in 1998, said he decided to seek re-election because he thinks he can still make a difference. 

“Even after 12 years, I still have the desire to serve the community,” Brooks said. “I think there’s still some things I’d like to get done, and if I get that chance I hope I can make decisions that have the best interest of the community.”

He said he thinks he has done a good job as a city councilor in the past and he thinks he represents his ward well. 

“We all have different views on things, and I just think sometimes my point of view fits in good with this area of town,” he noted. 

Instead of focusing on his accomplishments in office, he said he would rather focus on things to do in the future. 

“If you’re an elected official, you should never feel like you’ve done enough,” he said. 

Brooks said he also would like the opportunity to work with new City Manager Jim Norman and to see what ideas he can bring to the community. 

John Severtson

Severtson, who filed for mayor, is no stranger to city government. 

He previously served two terms on the council as 5th Ward councilor. He ran for a seat on the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners in 2008. 

Severtson said he decided to run for mayor because he thinks there needs to be a change in the way people are looking at the city. 

“And they don’t have to spend a million dollars to get people to come here,” he said. He talked about putting an RV park down by Albert Lea Lake and of the continuing problem it has been to market the former Wilson Co. site. 

He also talked about the value of good communication between the council and the community. 

He said he thinks the way city boards are set up, the board members can easily be intimidated by staff. 

If those board members feel like they could have more input, the boards might be more successful. 

He said he also thinks there are a few staff members who probably aren’t “holding their weight.” 

“They need to either step up to the plate or decide to leave,” Severtson said. 

One of Severtson’s other major sticking points is concerning the Albert Lea Port Authority. In the past, he has shown concern about how this entity was formed and how it is being run. 

He said he still has those concerns. 

No one has yet filed for the 4th Ward council seat; however, current 4th Ward Councilor Reid Olson contacted the Tribune to voice his intention to file for re-election at the end of the week when he returns from out of town. 

People interested in filing for city office should go to City Hall and meet with City Clerk Shirley Slater-Schulte.

The city filing fee is $5.