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Guest Column: What’s next for the Albert Lea community?

Guest Column by Vern Rasmussen Jr.

Vern Rasmussen Jr.

 

Friday night was the highlight of my tenure as mayor. It was the culmination of work by so many people and organizations. On a literal level, Friday night was the product of a year’s worth of planning and meetings of over 15 committees, 600 volunteers and agencies at the state and local levels. And to all of you, thank you! Friday night was a great night to showcase our downtown, chat with old neighbors and meet new ones, eat too much pork, dance, prepare to fish and take a peek at what we hope will become another one of Albert Lea’s signature employers, Mortarr.

On a figurative level, Friday night was more than that. It was the product of years of work by us as a community. The last time the Freeborn National Bank building had a permanent tenant was 20 years ago. The last time the fishing opener was held on a southern Minnesota lake was more than 20 years ago. We put an end to those streaks on Friday night.

So, my question to you is —  what’s next?

• Friday night demonstrated we’ve got a downtown people love. Seven years ago, when we decided as a community to invest in this, I never thought it would be the site to host two community dinners as the part of two statewide conferences. More than that, downtown is now the site where people can shop on a diverse retail corridor and chill out at the splash pad afterward. We’re going to keep moving forward, as we submitted an application to join Main Street, a program that provides the framework and network for cities to sustain their success downtown.

• Friday night also showed that we’ve built an economy that spans across all sectors of the spectrum. With Mortarr, Albert Lea now has a web-based company as one of its largest employers. Our hope is that Mortarr attracts and retains talent who believe that you don’t have to go to the big city to find a job, but rather, can remain in your hometown or come to a smaller town to start or enhance your career.

• Our lakes are better than ever. The fact that the fishing opener was held here demonstrates the success of the work that the Shell Rock River Watershed has had. Moreover, as the recreational capital of southern Minnesota, nowhere else in the state can you waterski so close to a lake where there’s a state park.

One thing that I’ve learned as mayor is that when people get involved, good stuff happens. And I’m not content to sit still. There is more work to do. So, as we move forward as a community, I encourage you to not only think about what you want to see for Albert Lea, but take an active role in being part of it. Come to the meetings, chat at the forums, email your councilors, engage our staff and be part of the dialogue.

I’ve never been more grateful about what has happened, and so excited about what can come next.

Vern Rasmussen Jr. is Albert Lea’s mayor.