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Editorial: Time for city and county to help EDC

It is unfortunate to see this week’s stalemate on the joint powers board of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

The EDC’s joint powers board deadlocked Thursday in a 3-3 vote on Mayor Frank Yanish’s proposed nomination of Linda Kacher to the EDC’s operating board. The nomination failed to receive the four votes necessary for approval.

The three city members voted for Kacher, while the three county members voted against her nomination. The county members certainly had cause to closely review Yanish’s latest nomination as his early nominee has caused significant turmoil and had poor attendance.

The EDC has been surrounded by tenson for much of the past year as it fended off accusations of conflicts of interest and improprieties in how it was handling its service fund. None of those allegations were ever substantiated.

Willmar City Councilmember Ron Christiansen said he was “embarrassed” by the Kachre nomination failure. He speculated openly that a conspiracy theory was afoot to derail Kacher’s appointment. Others might question whether there was a conspiracy behind Yanish’s recent withdrawal of his nomination of a willing and qualified candidate and his later nomination of Kacher.

Councilmember Steve Ahmann said Kacher was willing to serve and should have been allowed to serve. He apparently believes differently now than when Yanish recently withdrew his appointment of a willing candidate and instead nominated Kacher.

What is even most interesting is this is just one more issue where Christianson and Ahmann have been involved in recent years that has become controversial, dysfunctional or combative. Citizens will have to watch to see how big a grudge they will hold against the county or whether they can move beyond this political disagreement.

We agree that it is embarrassing to see the Willmar City Council’s dysfunctional tendencies creeping into the EDC matters. All too often recently, City Council actions during the Yanish tenure have divided along partisan lines; instead of what is best for the city.

The county and the city are equal partners in the EDC and neither has more political power than the other on this joint powers board. That is something that is hard for some city councilmembers to accept.

This EDC political partnership was set up for a reason - a joint government entity with equal balance for the betterment of all in the city and the county..

The mayor has the right to appoint any citizen as he believes fit for the EDC’s operating board. Then it is up to the City Council and the EDC’s joint powers board in turn to approve or not approve the nominee. A similar process holds for nominees from the county - the County Board and then the EDC’s joint power board reviewing said nomination for approval.

The EDC’s joint powers board does not have to rubber stamp any appointment from either the county or the city nor should it. The board members have a responsibility to conduct due diligence, review the nominee (even interview them if necessary) and make a judgement on the nominee.

If a county or city nominee to the EDC operating board is rejected by the EDC’s joint powers board, then the respective body needs to go back, select another citizen and start the nomination process all over again. Good leaders do not hold grudges, but move on.

The EDC is an excellent example of local government cooperation, which has been good thing over the past decade. The city and county need to find appropriate nominees for the EDC’s joint operating board that will gain the needed approval. Future nominees should be individuals interested and knowledgeable in business and economic development. A nominee should be able to attend meetings on a consistent basis.

The time is here to get the EDC joint operating board back to full membership sooner than later.