Commentary: My Willmar vision: ‘past, present and future’

Editor's Note: Shawn Mueske's commentary concerns Willmar's Ward 4 Special Election. I am proud to call Willmar home, and I am vested in this community. My family lives here, attends school here, works here, shops here, prays here, and plays here...

Editor’s Note: Shawn Mueske’s commentary concerns Willmar’s Ward 4 Special Election.

I am proud to call Willmar home, and I am vested in this community. My family lives here, attends school here, works here, shops here, prays here, and plays here. I am a Willmar resident concerned about the past, present, and future of this city.

Jim Dokken served 16 years on the City Council. I cannot replace his experience, but I have knowledge and leadership skills which will allow me to make an immediate contribution on the council. I have served on the Willmar Charter Commission (2009-present), Mid-Minnesota Development Commission (2005-present), Willmar School Board (2004-2008), and as Ridgewater College faculty president (2000, 2011-2014).

I understand the City Charter, budgeting, negotiations, policy, and parliamentary process. Given the brevity of the term of this position, it is important to hit the ground running, and I am prepared to do just that.

If elected I promise to act within specific guidelines and principles. The business of the City Council must be conducted with decorum. I can separate the personal from the professional. The business of the council must remain focused on the city, not individuals. The council is a team, and should be working together to achieve its goals. City Council members are elected to be policy makers, not to replace the functions performed by city employees.


I take my responsibility as a decision-maker seriously. I always question, challenge, and dialog while developing a position. With a position, I debate with passion, conviction, and logic, but can compromise.

Public servants should be good stewards of the public’s money. Good community leaders speak for all of their residents. Good decisions in the present require an understanding of the past, and a clear plan for the future. “Past, Present, Future.” I will return to this slogan in a moment.

The most important issues are economic development, park maintenance and development,

road maintenance and flood mitigation, committee and commission transparency, downtown development, revitalization of the Human Rights Commission, and establishment of a Heritage

Preservation Commission.

City spending reflects priorities. The city’s infrastructure and strategic planning must be high priorities. Strategic plans must engage all constituents affected by the vision. Buy-in from those affected is essential for success. When constituents are included in the formulation of the plan, ownership is created, and the likelihood of success grows exponentially.

Willmar’s citizens are the city. Any citizen-led effort deserves to be heard by the council. Good ideas can be found in unlikely places, and when we stop looking and considering new ideas, we stagnate.

Willmar is a diverse community, and that diversity is an asset. When we consider all the voices in the community, we make better decisions for the entire community.


I am a student of Willmar history and have just completed a project supported by the Kandiyohi County Historical Society called Willmar Downtown Transitions. Effective decision-making should consider historical context. Without knowledge of the past, we repeat our mistakes.

I am also a strong advocate for strategic planning. Without a plan with specific goals, we move forward without direction or risk being stuck in the past. Strategic planning and initiatives, such as Vision 2040, provide direction.

Effective decision-making employs a vision for the future. Good data informs good decisions. The City Council relies on the city staff, Willmar residents, and outside sources to provide the best information available to make decisions.

Therefore, the most effective decision-making combines the knowledge of the past, the information of the present, and a vision of the future. “Past, Present, Future” - it’s more than a slogan.

I would like to thank Jim Dokken for his service to the city, and Charlie Oakes and Tom Butterfield for their willingness to serve. Citizen involvement makes a city great.

I also want to thank Charlie Oakes for his endorsement.

The City Council is an eight-member team that represents the city of Willmar. If elected, I would advocate and provide voice for the residents of Ward 4.

Whether an issue affects Ward 4 or the entire city, I will consult the voices of Ward 4 and will be able to explain my decisions to my constituents.


Willmar’s best days are ahead. I stand with those who believe we can improve this city. We stand united for a better Willmar. I would appreciate your vote on Nov. 10.

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