Editorial: Give Rasmussen the 1st 4-year mayoral term

Published 9:57 am Tuesday, October 28, 2014

We would like to thank John Severtson for running for Albert Lea mayor mainly for the purpose of airing issues and for pushing the city to do more with economic development.

And the incumbent Albert Lea mayor, Vern Rasmussen, also thanks him. Both men understand and appreciate how the public benefits from public dialogue leading up to elections. They don’t see campaigns as a burden like some candidates seem to. They welcome election season as part of being good citizens. And they both have run clean, issues-based campaigns.

That said, the Tribune endorses Rasmussen in the mayoral race. He has learned much as mayor the last four years. Decorum at the City Council meetings has improved. There is more respect for orderly procedure and for the elected officials and city administrators. Likewise, the council seems to have more respect and patience for the people who appear before the council.

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Rasmussen is easy to reach and approachable. He has done a fine job of fulfilling the role of city figurehead. We see him cutting ribbons, breaking ground, leading Blue Zones-related ceremonies and generally being in front of the public. In fact, Rasmussen feels he needs to do more of the figurehead aspect, which is the right perspective to have while in the mayor seat. (It would be good to see chairs of the school board and county board learn from Rasmussen’s example on being visible throughout the community. The people generally want elected officials to be in the public spotlight more than or at least the same as a government entity’s top administrator.)

Most of all, however, this mayor knows the role is a listening position. People often don’t want their leaders to rebut or redirect the information they share. They usually want their leaders to listen to the information so that it can help them make decisions down the road. Rasmussen gets it.

He has been a steady presence during a time when the city has gone through much controversy, from the split with former city manager Jim Norman to the reconstruction of the downtown to the proposed reorganization of city departments. Rasmussen is right in saying the next step will be to focus on staff morale and building a greater sense of team.

Severtson’s main issue is he feels the Albert Lea Port Authority could do more to benefit the entirety of Albert Lea and feels it should return to city control. Rasmussen disagrees and says other cities look at the tax-free Albert Lea model with envy because of its successes and the ability to act nimbly to outside requests.

Both make good points and both might be right. Still, Rasmussen’s close connection to the Port Authority and attendance at the meetings is an example of how the two — City Council and Port Authority — often work hand in hand. There would need to be stronger, clearer reasons to change the present setup.

He said many of the problems the city faces now — such as its aging storm sewer infrastructure — were a result of poor choices 15 and 20 years ago. The legacy of present-day city officials won’t be known next year or in four years, he said. They will be known by the next generation 20 years later.

As a city official, Rasmussen is focused on the mission statement, he said. That statement reads: “The city will deliver exceptional services that enhance the quality of life for current and future generations.”

We couldn’t agree more. We urge our readers to vote for Rasmussen on Nov. 4 and make him Albert Lea’s first mayor to receive a four-year term.