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Our Opinion: We don’t miss the dysfunction

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opinion Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
Our Opinion: We don’t miss the dysfunction
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Sometimes no news really is good news.

For example, have you noticed all the news stories lately about power grabs, infighting and dysfunction among local elected officials and staff?


You haven’t? That’s because — in large part — school boards, city councils, and the county board are working together well for the good of their constituents.

That isn’t news — they’re doing the job they were elected to do — but that hasn’t always been the case. It wasn’t that long ago that the Frazee-Vergas School Board was in turmoil, for example, and other local boards and councils have also had their troubled times.

Certainly there are still heated moments, hurt feelings and policy differences among leaders, but those are rare and are worked through in a functional way.

We bring that to your attention because that isn’t the situation everywhere.

Case in point: A community leadership consultant in Willmar recently ended a strategic planning session on a sour note. He declared that the council and mayor were dysfunctional and incapable of setting a vision and goals due to deep-seated personality differences and beliefs.

Over time, said leadership consultant Carl Neu, the council and some of its members have developed a very deep set of beliefs and practices which in the long run have contributed to the council becoming progressively dysfunctional in carrying out its role.

Neu said it’s gotten to the point that is it so deep, and was evident during the meeting, that it’s clear the dysfunction is irredeemable.

According to the West Central Tribune newspaper, problems in Willmar include the deteriorated relationship between the mayor and city administrator.

During discussion, the mayor said he does not talk to the administrator because he has been advised not to by the city attorney.

Other issues included some council members saying they are not receiving sufficient information, or their directives and requests for information are going unmet.

Neu spent the better part of a week preparing for the retreat, which was more intense than he expected. He looked at council meeting videos and minutes and read press accounts, particularly letters to the editor.

He put the blame squarely on the elected officials, and said staff may be withholding information because they are fearful.

“You are suffering from a fatal self-inflicted disease and you are blaming everyone else,’’ he told the council.

Neu said the community and region have caught on to the dysfunction and he said council members are ignoring the feedback.

Neu said he could admire the longevity of some council members, some having served between 10 and 20 years. But he’s not sure all that longevity leads to maturity and capacity to lead as a council.

Ultimately, he said, the problem of a dysfunctional council and mayor will have to be solved at the voting booth.

Wow — we guess nobody is going to accuse Neu of sugarcoating his findings because he was paid by the city.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, we’re grateful for local leaders that put aside their personal and policy differences, behave in a civil manner, and work together for the common good.