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Willmar Council considers resolution declaring Willmar a welcoming city

Shelby Lindrud / Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council discussed the possibility of passing a resolution that would declare the city a welcoming place for all people during its work session Monday evening.

"I think it is good for our community," Councilor Fernando Alvarado said, calling Willmar a leader in the region and state. "I believe we have to continue to lead and welcome all who come here. We are better working together than trying to separate or build walls."

The council did not act on the resolution. Instead it will be brought to the Feb. 5 city council meeting for a possible vote.

The resolution in part reads "the city of Willmar and the surrounding area is stronger when all community residents are unified, engaged and valued as both neighbors and contributors to the public good" and says that all residents — no matter age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, religion or country of origin — will be welcome to come to Willmar and "contribute to the public good and future success of the community."

The majority of the council at the work session seemed to approve of the resolution.

"It sets a tone. It has us moving in a positive direction," Councilor Julie Asmus said.

Councilors Ron Christianson and Rick Fagerlie did question the need for the resolution.

"Don't our signs say welcome to Willmar?" Fagerlie asked, adding the basis of the resolution is either in people's hearts or its not.

Christianson said he received calls from his constituents who didn't want the resolution and he, himself, wonders why the council is considering it.

"We have a Constitution of the United States that reflects these words, a state constitution that does the same thing," Christianson said. "What necessitates this?"

However, Christianson wasn't the only one to get calls from residents.

"The ward I know is a global community and wants to represent a global community," Alvarado said. "My constituents, in my ward, want this to happen."

City Attorney Robert Scott said the resolution would not be legally binding, but instead it is a statement.

"It is a statement of principle, that is its intended effect," Scott said.

The councilors in support of the resolution understand the resolution isn't binding, but it does mean something — that Willmar welcomes all.

"It is going to be words on a wall, but those words set a precedence," Alvarado said.

Mayor Marv Calvin said he spoke to people both for and against the resolution and he believes, overall, residents want Willmar to be a welcoming place. Calvin also believes if this resolution can help people feel welcome, than it is a good thing.

"Our diversity is what is driving our economy," Calvin said.

Councilor Andrew Plowman was also supportive of the resolution and the message he feels it is trying to get across.

"Very simple to me, love thy neighbor, is what I get out of it," Plowman said.