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Willmar looking for volunteers to fill openings on city boards and commissions

Willmar has several vacancies on city boards and commissions and is looking for residents to fill them. Those looking for new members include the Willmar Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and the Human Rights Commission.

A May 2020 photo of the Kwik Trip construction site in downtown Willmar.
Residents that serve on the various Willmar boards and commissions can have a real and visible impact on the city. Those who served on the Willmar Planning Commission, for instance, approved the plans to construct the three Kwik Trips that are now open in town. Construction of the downtown Willmar Kwik Trip started in spring 2020.
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — The city of Willmar is looking for a few good men and women to serve their community. There are several openings on various boards and commissions, bodies that can have a real impact.

"It is a good, grassroots effort to get involved in local government," said Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin. "It is a good way to learn the process, how government works."

There are currently openings on the Citizens Cable Advisory Committee, Board of Zoning Appeals, Rice Memorial Hospital Board, Municipal Utilities Commission, Planning Commission, Airport Commission, Human Rights Commission and the Park and Recreation Board.

"It is a little unusual" to have so many openings, Calvin said, though it is normal for the largest number of vacancies to occur at the start of the year, when terms expire.

110719.N.WCT.WillmarPowerPlantFuture.03
The Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission is the governing board for the city's utilities. It makes recommendations regarding rate hikes, new projects and maintenance and helped decide the future of the Willmar Power Plant, shown here in 2019. The Willmar City Council has final approval for all decisions the commission makes.
West Central Tribune file photo

Those interested in applying to serve first need to fill out an application, which can be located on the city's website , or by contacting Janell Sommers at the city offices. The applications are then forwarded to Calvin who makes appointment recommendations to the City Council.

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"Approval is a council action," Calvin said.

Even if a board doesn't have an immediate opening, Calvin said people can fill out an application to be considered for future vacancies.

"Express your interest," Calvin said.

How much time each board or commission requires varies. The Board of Zoning Appeals meets only when needed, while the Planning Commission and Utilities Commission usually meet at least twice a month and can have various other meetings.

"You can be as involved as you wish," Calvin said.

The different groups also cover a vast array of city operations. The Cable Advisory Committee provides oversight for the Willmar Regional Access Channels, while the Human Rights Commission works to try to make the city a more equal and welcoming community through education and events.

Citizenship ceremony at Willmar Barn Theater April 2018
The Willmar Human Rights Commission helped plan and hold a citizenship naturalization ceremony in Willmar in April 2018, when many became naturalized American citizens.
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

If a person wants to really get involved, volunteering for the Planning Commission could be a great option. Willmar Planning and Development Director Justice Walker said there is a lot of work ahead for the Planning Commission, including reviewing the city's zoning ordinance and creating a new comprehensive plan for the city. This is on top of the normal work of approving building plans for new residential, commercial and industrial developments in the city.

"This is the time to show up," Walker said. "They can have a real stake on what gets implemented."

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A partially-constructed Subway restaurant sits along 1st Street in downtown Willmar
One of the more recent projects the Willmar Planning Commission approved was the plan for the new Subway restaurant on First Street South near downtown Willmar, pictured Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Walker is also looking for people to help on the comprehensive plan work group, which will go through the plan chapter by chapter and update it for the next decade or more. Those interested in that can contact Walker directly at the city offices.

"I'll take as many people I can there," Walker said.

Walker wants people from all walks of life to serve, not just those with backgrounds in construction or business. Having a diverse and opinionated group could help direct the city in new and interesting ways.

"Those are the people who can push conversations, those are the people most likely to challenge the perceptions of things," Walker said.

Calvin hopes that people who do serve on the various boards and commissions might also use it as a stepping stone to one day run for elected office.

"It is an opportunity at a local grassroots level to get involved in the policies and direction of the city," 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 slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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