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Kandiyohi County sends letter to Willmar, Minn. officials encouraging cooperative steps forward

WILMAR – The Kandiyohi County Commissioners sent a letter to the city of Willmar today formalizing an invitation for the two entities to begin a six-month exploration of collaborative efforts that could improve services and save taxpayer dollars.

The letter, which hints at conflicts on the city council and the city’s recent decision to shelve a consultant’s recommendation to reorganize city departments, carries the clear message that change is necessary.

“Status quo and simply maintaining is not appropriate, nor realistic, in an ever-changing world,” reads the letter, which was written by County Board Chairman Harlan Madsen.

“Our constituents deserve better than that, and we must forge ahead with research, discussion and good planning to position ourselves as a vibrant regional center for our future.”

Madsen surprised his fellow county commissioners and County Administrator Larry Kleindl by presenting the letter during their board meeting Tuesday morning.

Madsen said he intentionally kept the letter private until the meeting to avoid any appearance of violating the open meeting law.

He asked for, and received, the board’s unanimous endorsement of the letter.

Madsen asked that Willmar City Administrator Charlene Stevens and two city council members join County Administrator Larry Kleindl and two county commissioners to serve on a work group to explore and evaluate current and future opportunities for the government units to more fully collaborate.

In a later interview Madsen said he hopes a joint county/city committee will focus on ways to serve citizens in an efficient and effective manner.

 “Let’s put aside any preconceived notion. Let’s put aside any baggage. Let’s put aside any attitudes,” he said.

Madsen said he felt compelled to write the letter after the Willmar city council’s split decision last month not to move forward with a reorganizational plan.

“I think it is our responsibility as elected officials to have those conversations. To explore diligently how we can provide better service – more efficiencies in an ever-changing environment,” he said.

Madsen acknowledged he was taking a risk by writing the letter and sending it to the city. He said he has no idea what the eventual outcome will be.

“But if we do nothing we will accomplish nothing,” he said. “I clearly believe we have to move ahead if we’re going to look at ourselves as a regional center.”

The Willmar City Council is expected to address the letter at their meeting tonight.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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