Stronger Together: Our community has responded to the pandemic in countless positive ways

“The pandemic deeply altered our summer, but the positive ways in which our community and institutions responded are countless. No one would want to repeat what we went through, but I feel uplifted knowing the support structure we have within our community.” -Kelcey Klemm


March 12 seems like forever ago, but I distinctly remember returning from a legislative rally in St. Paul (one of the last before the shutdown) knowing that things were about to change -- and how quickly they did. A couple of days later, the governor announced the statewide closing of schools, and the pandemic became very real.

Little did I know my days would be shaped by the governor’s daily press conference and issuances of executive orders. The Detroit Lakes City Council responded quickly to the coronavirus outbreak by holding a special meeting (with 6-foot spacing) where they passed an emergency declaration to give flexibility in staffing and scheduling to keep our employees safe and continue uninterrupted services to the community.

During the stay-at-home order, administrative staff worked a split schedule, with half at the office and the other half working from home. The police department adjusted staff schedules to prevent overlapping, and squad cars were brought home.

Public Works reported to separate buildings, and break rooms were closed. Public Utilities (water/wastewater and electric) dispatched from home and utilized video calls to coordinate daily work. And of course, many thanks to the employees of the liquor store, who worked additional hours to keep the store open with ever-changing retail guidelines.

Throughout all of this, I couldn’t be more proud of how our city employees have stepped up, remained flexible, and continued to deliver exceptional services to the community.


The good news about the pandemic is that it forced us all to learn to work in new ways, as video calls became the norm and other technology that we may have been hesitant to use before became second nature. We have also seen increased utilization of our online offerings; everything from utility payments to building permit submittals. These newfound efficiencies will provide long-term benefits.

The city council quickly shifted to online meetings and then migrated to “hybrid” meetings to provide options to attend either in-person or virtually. While meetings haven’t been without an occasional technological glitch, the city has tried to provide both options to encourage citizens to participate in whatever way they’re most comfortable. Special thanks to the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center for hosting our meetings.

To coordinate the community’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, many of our local institutions (city, county, schools, health care facilities, M State, chamber of commerce, churches and others) assembled through weekly video conferences (at first three times per week and now once per week) to share information and deliver resources where needed.

An early product of these efforts was the coordination between Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steven Todd and Volunteer Coordinator Beth Pridday to set up a network of volunteers who delivered needed goods and services to those quarantined.

Citizens of Detroit Lakes can rest assured knowing how well our local organizations work together and how dedicated those serving the community are to providing the best services, resources and safety to the community.

I like to think we are fortunate to live where we do when it comes to social distancing and getting

outside. The investments in our city’s parks have really paid off. Trails, parks, courts and our mile-long City Beach were well utilized while users adhered to public health guidelines.

I also saw firsthand how our organizers of youth sports and activities gathered together to find ways to provide as many youth offerings as possible this summer. Their “never quit” attitude stood out when many cities around the state were shutting down their parks and activities.


The city council was also quick to respond once restaurants were allowed to reopen, by loosening parking requirements and permitting expanded liquor premises. Public Works was busy responding to requests from businesses for additional picnic tables and extra garbage cans to accommodate outdoor seating, as well as the need for curbside pick-up signs and designations. The Holmes Theatre continued its Tuesdays in the Park concert series and moved several other events to the City Park.

While it wasn’t perfect, everyone was motivated to do what they could to still make summer in Detroit Lakes eventful and fun.

The pandemic deeply altered our summer, but the positive ways in which our community and institutions responded are countless. No one would want to repeat what we went through, but I feel uplifted knowing the support structure we have within our community.

Our businesses have taken the pandemic on the chin, but there are signs of hope as we continue to see building permits roll in (21 new homes already constructed this year), unemployment levels decrease, and many “for hire” signs pop up around the city.

With winter approaching, many challenges still lay ahead for our area businesses, and it will take a community effort to support them.

Lastly, looking forward to next year, I have to put in a plug for Detroit Lakes’ 150th anniversary in 2021. There are still many unknowns, but the city and other organizations are gearing up for a full year of celebration in one form or another. Please follow for more information.

Kelcey Klemm, Detroit Lakes City Administrator (submitted photo)

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