Former Willmar Mayor Heitke recommended to EDC Operations Board

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council voted Tuesday to recommend the appointment of Lester Heitke to the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission Operations Board.

Les Heitke
Les Heitke, former mayor of Willmar, was recommended Tuesday by the Willmar City Council to serve on the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission Operations Board. He is shown in a 2010 file photo whil serving as mayor. (Tribune file photo)

WILLMAR - The Willmar City Council voted Tuesday to recommend the appointment of Lester Heitke to the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission Operations Board.

The vote at Tuesday's council meeting was 7 to 0, with Councilor Ron Christianson abstaining.

The EDC Joint Powers Board will make the final decision on whether to appoint Heitke to the operations board at its next meeting.

Heitke has a long career of public service in the city of Willmar. He served on the City Council from 1989 to 1994 and then was elected mayor in 1995. He served as mayor until 2010.

A position became available on the operations board when Mayor Marv Calvin decided not to bring Linda Kacher's name forward for a second term. The council approved a motion to recommend her re-appointment to the operations board, but Calvin vetoed that action.


Christianson said this could easily be seen as a political appointment and asked again the reason why Kacher's re-appointment was not recommended.

"Can someone tell me why? What is the reason?" Christianson asked.

The mayor declined to answer, and Kacher has not spoken publicly either.

"I'm not sure what kind of games are being played here," Councilor Rick Fagerlie said, adding that he had thought the council was going to let the EDC Joint Powers Board members decide for themselves without city recommendation.

There was discussion Tuesday regarding past board or commission appointments that had been controversial or denied altogether with no reason. Many on the council said they felt those who want to serve on boards and commissions should be able to, regardless of past political aspirations.

"They want to contribute to our community. We should encourage them to participate at whatever level they can participate," Councilor Fernando Alvarado said.

The motion to recommend Heitke was withdrawn at first to allow the council to decide on a procedure to follow regarding recommendations and nominations.

"There are no rules, in my opinion, in how it moves forward," Councilor Shawn Mueske said.


A motion was made and approved which said all recommendations and nominations to boards and commissions not specifically mentioned in the charter will be made either by the mayor or a member of the council and will need five affirmative council votes to be approved.

"In situations like this there should be constancy. It is transparent, it allows the council to move names forward they are content should be there," Calvin said, speaking in favor of the procedure.

The city charter says the mayor has the power to make mayoral appointments, with at least five affirmative council member votes, to charter-provided boards and commissions. These are the Planning Commission, Parks and Leisure Services Board, Rice Memorial Board, Municipal Utilities Commission and the Board of Zoning and Appeals.

Any other public boards and commissions the City Council creates or participates in will use their own bylaws regarding recommendations and appointments.

The EDC, for example, is governed by a joint powers agreement, and it states that the EDC itself has the authority to make appointments to the operations board, according to information City Attorney Robert Scott shared with the council last month.

The council now will follow its new procedure established Tuesday when making recommendations or appointments to any of these other boards not specified in the city charter.

Mueske would also like for the Charter Commission to look into the appointment and nomination policy, to see if it can be made clearer in the charter.

"We need to have some consistency," Mueske said.


A mayoral appointment to one of the charter-provided commissions was made and approved Tuesday night by the City Council. The resignation of Joe Gimse on the Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission has created a vacancy. Ross Magnuson was recommended and approved to fill that seat.

"They have an immediate need to have a full board," Calvin said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email or direct 320-214-4373.

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