Enthusiasm and a spirit of collaboration exuded from the 2019 State of the Cities stage, where our region’s four mayors gathered to share updates from their cities. With two newly elected mayors joining the panel for the first time, attendees got the hear how all our leaders are working for the betterment of our metro, what growth they’ve seen, and what their vision is for the future. And there’s no doubt, we’re lucky to have this great leadership in a growing community!
Xcel Energy’s Mark Nisbet and WDAY’s Jay Thomas served as moderators.
Beginning in Dilworth, crowd favorite Chad Olson, talked about the expanded businesses and developments in the city.
One success he referenced was last year when Minnesota’s governor declared a state of emergency for the region due to the dangerous cold, Churches United needed more space due to high demand for shelter. The city of Dilworth worked closely with the organization to protect those in need at the time. “It’s easy and an honor to be the mayor of a city that is willing to go through these extreme efforts,” he said. Last year they also saw their first new Habitat home in 20 years.
In 2018, Dilworth named ALDI the Star Business of the Year, “because they embody the idea that when one city succeeds, all cities succeed.” Because of their success in Dilworth, they are opening more locations in the region.
Olson referenced a new development called Dilworth Commons, which completed construction in 2018 and offers new amenities for the city. He also updated on curbside recycling now offered for residents.
“2018 was a fantastic and successful year for Dilworth. I believe it’s important to reiterate that the success of the city of Dilworth contributes to the overall success of the FM area,” he said. “As we focus on our attention to 2019, there is no doubt in my mind that this year will be as successful for the city as 2018.”
Only having three full days completed as mayor of Moorhead, Johnathan Judd brought laughs and excitement for his city. His theme? Moorhead is growing! Borrowing a quote from one of his favorite statespeople, he said, “We shape our buildings, and afterward, our buildings shape us. I ask you to consider, substitute the term buildings for cities. When we make decisions, when we look at the greater good of our community, we’re looking at the things people do that shapes our city and shapes ourselves.”
In a city with a population of 43,000, some of Judd’s updates included the Cullen hockey center as a city asset, the newly completed join law enforcement center, the 21st Street underpass, the momentum of downtown and changes to the corridor. (He also said to watch for the term “NoMo,” as in north Moorhead. It’s coming, he said!
He also shared that Moorhead achieved the Minnesota GreenStep 2 designation for its sustainability efforts, and is working to become a GreenStep 3 community in 2019.
Judd has a vision to make Moorhead a cultural center. “We want Moorhead to be on the map for being the place to be when it comes to culture,” he said.
Looking to the future, Judd said we need to look holistically at our neighborhoods, adapt to changing dynamics and economics, and consider not only who we are, but also who we want to become.
In Fargo, Mayor Tim Mahoney celebrated the completion of the new city hall, which is expected to open September 2019, and says will be future-focused and a game-changer. Other recent city developments include the expansion of the water treatment plant and police headquarters. Construction permits have seen growth, and downtown’s Block 9 is in full swing.
He gave a shout-out to Moorhead’s most recent former mayor, Del Rae Williams for her work with the Minnesota DNR and finally receiving a permit for the FM Diversion, and offered a look at what’s next for our region’s flood protection, adding that the Diversion is very much still needed.
Mahoney mentioned various development opportunities in Fargo, plus the need for a performing arts center. Also looking ahead, he says Fargo plans to focus on the new downtown city plaza, Red River Valley water supply project, and hopes to see efforts in workforce, including having internships in every sector and retaining young professionals.
A particular bright spot? Social services is seeing a success with report of a 50% decrease in opioid prescriptions!
“When we combine the efforts of Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Dilworth, the people and businesses and civic organizations, we can achieve great things. We need to think as a metro and compete as a metro, not each other. We are in competition with [other cities], and we need to think big. We will all win when we all win.”
Finally, Mahoney offered a challenge to his fellow mayors and members of the audience to harness our energy and become an EEME epicenter of the upper Midwest (EECE standing for educational, entertainment, medical and economic) and be the next great metro. “We do great things together, but together we can do far more!”
Finally on the westernmost edge of the panel was longtime businessman but new mayor Bernie Dardis, who referenced his city’s incredible growth (which ended 2018 at 37,730). West Fargo has the state’s highest median household income (of $73,402).
He shared that housing has finally leveled out, and in 2018, the city worked with three developers to increase affordable housing options, one of the pillars that aligns with the city’s new comprehensive plan, dubbed West Fargo 2.0.
One exciting announcement is that nationally, West Fargo was chosen as the site for the Habitat for Humanity blitz build in 2019, where three new homes will be built in 10 days in one neighborhood.
The West Fargo school district is the fastest-growing district in the state, with the addition of about 500 new students per year. Last year saw the opening two new schools, and citizens passed a $106.9 million bond referendum to help improve current facilities and build even more.
The city’s departments are also growing, and Dardis called out the fire department, which has improved efficiency and taken volunteers into part-time city employees. A brand-new position was also created in the police department with the hire of the first cultural liaison officer to bridge the gap between police and the New American community.
Dardis referenced the work that is being done on Sheyenne Street and downtown, and encouraged attendees to take a drive through and see all that is going on. Several more developments are planned in this city too, including the destination Lights at Sheyenne 32.
More planning meetings will be held this month with community members invited, and many events, facility upgrades and excitement is in the future.
Dardis closed with a call for engagement and input from our community members and businesses to keep our forward momentum and solve our region’s challenges.
Live Poll Results
We also conducted live audience polls to find out where they sit on the issues. We learned that a majority (41%) felt that workforce was our region’s biggest issue, followed by behavioral and mental health, and flood protection. Most also felt that North Dakota’s blue laws should be repealed. Here are the official results.
We thank all of our attendees, sponsors and elected officials for their support of this event. Special thanks goes to presenting sponsor, Xcel Energy.
View presentations from the mayors
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