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Yanish gives first State of City address as city leaders sworn into office

Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish, who took the oath of office Monday, presided over his first City Council meeting Monday in Willmar. Yanish said he and fellow city officials face lengthy challenges as the city looks to recover from the recession. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Frank Yanish gaveled the regular meeting of the Willmar City Council to session Monday after he re-ceived a certificate of election from City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday and was administered the oath of office by District Judge Donald Spilseth.

Yanish defeated Les Heitke for the four-year mayor's position in the Nov. 2 general election. More than a dozen family, friends and well-wishers watched and took pictures of Yanish's swearing-in ceremony in the chambers at the Municipal Ut-ilities Building.

Also sworn into office were returning council members Br-uce DeBlieck from Ward 1, Ron Christianson from Ward 2, Rick Fagerlie from Ward 3, and Do-ug Reese from Ward 4.

The agenda included the annual Mayor's State of the City Address as required by the City Charter, and Yanish offered his vision for the city.

He said 2011 marks the 141st year as a chartered city, which he said has continued to grow and develop.

He said strong leadership from elected officials working closely with city staff and citizens will ensure that the city continues moving in the right direction, and he believes the city has the people in place to get the job done.

Yanish thanked Heitke for his service to the community.

The next few years, Yanish said, will likely be challenging.

"As your new mayor, it is my intent to steer the city down a path that leads to a consensus, cooperation, and hopefully, solutions for a number of capital projects that have troubled us for a number of years,'' Yanish said. "Recovery from the recent recession and achieving our goals will require nothing less than everyone's full cooperation.''

In prepared remarks, Yanish said it's imperative to closely watch spending and that everything be put on the table. With the probability the city will receive less Local Government Aid from the state, he said the city must constantly re-evaluate how programs and services are delivered.

Yanish said he understood the workforce is already significantly reduced through retirements and vacancies that are not being filled. He said cooperation and sharing of resources and expenses must continue among the city, Municipal Utilities, Rice Hospital, Kandiyohi County and Willmar Public Schools.

During the mayor's race, Yanish said he was not opposed to the possibility of contracting for some city services. In his address, Yanish said the city should look to privatization of programs and services when privatization makes sense.

"In addition to any perceived or real cost savings from privatization, we should always look to the citizens for their tolerance of any reduced services as part of the final analysis,'' he said.

Yanish said he wants to study the work force planning document submitted by City Administrator Michael Schmit who will retire this summer.

"With an aging workforce, numerous other pending retirements and the sluggish economy, we will have ample opportunities to consider new faces and fresh ideas and to re-valuate how we provide city programs and services,'' the mayor said.

Yanish said he'll emphasize resolving storm water and water quality issues and he hopes a soon-to-be-released surface water management plan will help establish a workable action plan and find solutions to age-old storm water problems.

Also, he hopes the old airport land will be released early this year. He said the release process has dragged on and delayed critical economic development activity, and he called on state and federal legislators to aggressively intervene on the city's behalf.

"We must find some reasonable room for compromise with state and federal agencies,'' he said.

On three other issues, Yanish said maintaining a vibrant downtown area is important; the city must find a way to address train noise and pursue railroad quiet zones; and support adequate transportation systems to remain a strong regional center.

"I thank the citizens of Willmar for this incredible opportunity to be of service to our city,'' he said. "By all of us working together, we have the ability to confront head-on those challenges we face and establish our community as a destination of choice to work, educate, raise our families and enjoy the many recreational and cultural amenities.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150