‘It’s a good time in Austin’; Mayor Stiehm elected CGMC secretary

Published 10:42 am Friday, August 5, 2016

Mayor Tom Stiehm

Mayor Tom Stiehm

Austin is in a good position to be at the center of statewide discussions moving forward.

Mayor Tom Stiehm was elected to serve as secretary of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) on July 22 during the coalition’s three-day summer conference in Austin.

Stiehm says the appointment will help Austin have a strong voice as issues like local government aid and expected water infrastructure improvements to meet new Minnesota Pollution Control standards

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“We’re aware of everything and we get heard more,” Stiehm said of his position on the board. “Nothing gets by us.”

As an officer on the CGMC board of directors, Stiehm will help guide efforts to inform state legislators of Greater Minnesota’s needs on issues such as property tax relief, economic development, transportation and environmental policy.

Stiehm was elected by fellow mayors and city officials from across the state to serve in the leadership role for the CGMC, long considered one of the most active, high-profile organizations to represent rural communities at the state Capitol.

As secretary, he replaces Bemidji City Council member Ron Johnson, who was elected to serve as second vice president of the CGMC.

“When it came to choosing officers for the upcoming year, electing Tom to the role of secretary was a no-brainer,” said Tim Flaherty, executive director of the CGMC, in a press release. “He has been an active member of the CGMC board for several years and can always be counted on to be a strong advocate for Greater Minnesota. We look forward to having him in a leadership position over the next year.

The CGMC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 88 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota.

While issues like LGA and the state bonding bill often attract attention, Stiehm described the expected waster infrastructure improvements to the Austin Wastewater Treatment plants as a topic because it will be something Austin and other cities face over several years.

“It’s an ongoing issue,” Stiehm said. “It’s not an issue for just this year, it’s an issue that’s continuing year in and year out.”

According to early estimates, the potential improvements could cost as much as $20 million — $10 million for the city and $10 million for Hormel Foods Corp. — but Stiehm noted the numbers are very preliminary.

Stiehm also called the CGMC’s summer conference hosted in Austin a success

“I just felt that the conference went very well,” Stiehm said. “People were very pleased with things.”

He also called it a great chance to showcase the many things going on in Austin — like the recently expanded Hormel Institute and the new Austin Utilities facility at Energy Park — to city leaders from across the state.

“They had a very positive view of Austin,” he said.

Austin last hosted the conference in 2000. Stiehm said people saw Austin as a forward-looking, progressive city, and with many advancements, Stiehm said he’s excited show off the community again in the future.

“We’re a city that’s really moving forward right now,” he said. “It’s a good time in Austin.”