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Willmar city administrator shares vision for his new city

Shelby Lindrud / Tribune Willmar City Administrator Ike Holland talks Wednesday during a Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Lunch with Leaders session about his ideas for downtown Willmar. Holland said local government with buildings downtown, including the city, need to be willing to put money into those facilities to keep the downtown area vibrant.

WILLMAR — Ike Holland has been city administrator for the city of Willmar for about four months and he already has a list of ideas and projects he thinks can make the city an even better place to live.

"I love planning. I love laying out a city," Holland said Wednesday to a group of business people during the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce's Lunch with Leaders.

One area where he sees a lot of potential is downtown, specifically regarding government buildings. Holland said government buildings make up at least 50 percent of downtown, from the hospital and city offices to the county courthouse and library. This means they have to help keep the downtown vibrant.

"The government entities have to continue to put money in their downtown facilities," Holland said.

For the city, it means looking into future uses for the Willmar City Auditorium and upgrading the city offices.

"I'm very excited in our new budget we are going to build a new City Hall," Holland said. The Willmar City Council has yet to approve the 2018 budget, but the preliminary 2018 budget includes $8.5 million for a new City Hall and Community Center complex.

Holland said a new building like that can have a great impact on not only staff but the community as well.

"You have to have an environment that encourages people to come downtown," Holland said.

Overall, Holland said he believes the city of Willmar is in good financial shape, with money to meet the city's responsibilities and perhaps some left over.

"The health of the city government is pretty good," Holland said, adding that is not something to take for granted.

In the next months Holland also wants to focus on beautifying Willmar, including painting all the light posts and street signals and upgrading city signage, including the welcome signs. He also wants to continue improving the city's parks.

"We're going to design some eye-popping stuff," Holland said.

Holland said his ideas for Willmar have come from his own experiences and observations as he worked and lived around the globe.

"This is not experimental. This is what communities across America have done," Holland said.