Heitke, Boonstra appointed to EDC Operations Board

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission Joint Powers Board put an end to weeks of controversy Thursday when it appointed Les Heitke to its operations board.

WILLMAR - The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission Joint Powers Board put an end to weeks of controversy Thursday when it appointed Les Heitke to its operations board.

He replaces Linda Kacher, whose term ended Dec. 31. City Councilor Shawn Mueske, serving Thursday as an alternate member of the joint powers board, tried to put Kacher's name into consideration alongside Heitke's but that amendment failed.

In separate votes Thursday, Heitke was appointed and Donna Boonstra was reappointed to the operations board.

Heitke was recommended by the city of Willmar, but not before the mayor and members of the Willmar City Council debated both the process of making recommendations to the EDC and also who would be recommended.

Boonstra was recommended by the Kandiyohi County Board.


Initially, the EDC Joint Powers Board on Thursday considered one motion to approve both Heitke and Boonstra, but separate votes were taken after Mueske's amendment to take separate votes was approved.

Mueske was serving Thursday as an alternate for City Councilor Andrew Plowman.

The amendment to add Kacher's name for consideration failed on a 3-2 vote. Four affirmative votes are needed.

Mueske, Kandiyohi County Commissioner Jim Butterfield (an alternate for Commissioner Rollie Nissen) and Commissioner Roger Imdieke voted in favor. Commissioner Harlan Madsen and City Councilor Audrey Nelsen (an alternate for City Councilor Kathy Schwantes) voted against the amendment. City Councilor Fernando Alvarado was absent from the meeting.

The drama over the city recommendation to the operations board harkens back to early December, when Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin sent Kacher a letter saying she would not be reappointed to the board for a second term.

That caused pushback from members of the City Council, who argued Calvin did not have the power to appoint people to the EDC Operations Board. This was later determined to be correct.

The power to appoint lies with the EDC Joint Powers Board, which has always requested recommendations from both the the county and city.

"The protocol has been to ask for input," Madsen said Thursday.


The back and forth that followed on the Willmar City Council included a motion approved by the council to recommend Kacher be reappointed, a veto of that motion by the mayor and a failed attempt to override that veto.

At the Jan. 17 meeting, the City Council passed a motion which recommended Heitke, a former Willmar mayor and City Council member, be appointed to the operations board. The motion passed 7-0. Councilor Ron Christianson abstained from the vote.

Butterfield said Thursday he was torn between Kacher and Heitke, based on their merits.

"Both of these people were very qualified," Butterfield said.

Kacher was recognized by the EDC Joint Powers Board for her service.

"We thank Mrs. Kacher for her past service," Imdieke said.

The joint powers board members agreed the process for seeking recommendations and making appointments to the board needs to be re-evaluated after the controversy.

"It might warrant some review," Madsen said.


With the operations board now full, Madsen hopes things can move forward. He said any issues at the county or city level need to stay there and not get in the way of the EDC's mission.

"Whatever that is going on there has no place at the EDC. Our job is business retention and expansion. That is what our mission and responsibility should be," Madsen 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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