If you want to be on the committee that helps make the selection, make your interest known by Jan. 16

    Concluding it’s an acceptable compromise between immediately appointing Wayne Melbye as Crookston mayor for the next couple of years and conducting a full-blown special mayoral election in the spring to fill the vacancy created by Gary Willhite’s resignation, the Crookston City Council at a Ways & Means Committee meeting Monday voted 5-3 in favor of a recommendation put forth by Vice Mayor Dale Stainbrook to accept applications from Crookston residents interested in being appointed mayor.

    Stainbrook said he crafted the recommendation with the assistance of City Administrator Shannon Stassen.

    “The way I feel is that this is the compromise we need,” Stainbrook, also the council member from Ward 5, said. “We’re trying to get someone sitting at this desk sooner rather than later.”

    Unlike at last week’s full city council meeting, when he was unable to vote because presiding mayors/vice mayors only vote to break council ties – and the result was a 4-3 vote in favor of appointing Melbye, which was one vote of the five required to approve a mayor in accordance with the city charter – Stainbrook was able to vote on the motion Monday because presiding mayors/vice mayors are allowed to vote on all motions and recommendations at Ways & Means Committee meetings. When asked by Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten if Monday’s committee recommendation would next have to go to a full council meeting for a vote on a resolution - as most committee recommendations do – Stassen said he feels Monday’s committee vote will not need to be endorsed in the form of a subsequent vote by the full council.

    “In my opinion this would not require a resolution to the council; this is the process approved moving forward,” Stassen explained, adding that once a person is recommended to be appointed mayor, the full council would vote to approve or reject the potential appointee.

    Voting in favor of the application process Monday were Stainbrook, and council members Steve Erickson, Clayton Briggs, Dennis Regan and Bob Quanrud. Voting against were Vedbraaten, and recently elected council members Bobby Baird and Jake Fee.

    Anyone interested in finishing the term of Willhite, who resigned in December after he ran for and was elected to the Polk County Board of Commissioners, has until 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31 to express his or her interest. Interested applicants will need to send a letter to Stainbrook indicating their interest and listing their qualifications and experience along with their contact information. Letters can be sent to city hall at 124 North Broadway in Crookston, or emailed to Administrative Assistant Tina Trostad, at ttrostad@crookston.mn.us.

    As for Melbye – who served three terms on the council before not seeking re-election in November and, instead, ran unsuccessfully for the Polk County Board – he told the Times last week that he’d more than likely remain interested in being appointed to finish Willhite’s term if the council OK’ed some sort of a public application process. If the council instead decided to conduct a full-fledged special mayoral election, Melbye said he wouldn’t likely file his candidacy.

Advisory Committee to be formed

    If you don’t necessarily want to be mayor but you want to be involved in who is appointed mayor, you can pursue one of six public seats on the advisory committee that will be formed to interview mayoral applicants.

    The committee, Stainbrook explained, will be comprised of all eight council members as well as a single representative of each of the City’s six wards. That adds up to a 14-person committee. If you want to be on the committee, the application process is similar to the one put in place for those interested in being mayor. Write a letter to Stainbrook, send it to city hall, or email it to Trostad. But you have to act quickly, as 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 16 is the deadline.

    In voting against the process proposed Monday, Vedbraaten, Baird and Fee each said they prefer holding an election in order to sufficiently involve the public and show that the City’s operation is open and transparent. Baird and Fee also added that they were each aware of several people that were interested in filing their candidacy in an election, but that they weren’t confident as many people would seek a mayoral appointment via the application process approved Monday.

    “Everyone I’ve talked to wants an open and fair process to make sure we’re getting the most qualified person as well as the person people want,” Fee said. “I also know of people who would throw their hat in the ring if there’s an election, but they won’t do it (with an application process) because they don’t think it’ll be a fair and open process.”

    Asked by Briggs how many people have spoken to him over the past couple of weeks about the issue – “Is that five people, or 2,000?” Briggs wondered. – Fee said around 25 to 30 people have offered their thoughts to him on the subject.

    As for the five council members who voted in favor of the application process, they each said they haven’t heard a lot of public feedback on the mayoral selection process, and that the comments they have heard have all been in favor of appointing Melbye mayor. The handful of council members also said they doubt taxpayers would be pleased with the prospect of spending the estimated $15,000 to $20,000 to conduct a special election.

    Around a dozen citizens attended Monday’s meeting. Of those who went to the podium to address the council, they were basically split, with two saying they wanted an election and two saying they felt Melbye should be appointed to the council.

    A sampling of their comments:

    • Lee Cymbaluk: “I’m a taxpayer and I don’t want anything shoved down my throat. I want a say in who’s going to be my mayor.”

    • Dave Regeimbal: “I have nothing against Wayne Melbye; he’s a great guy and I like him. But people who pay taxes should have more than one choice. If nobody else wants it, appoint Wayne. But we are the public and I feel we should have a right to choose our mayor.”

    • Matt Peterson: “I feel like we just recently voted in the election, and we voted for our council members to take care of these things. You’re our voice, so you can make choices that represent us.”

    • Larry Brekken: “I feel that you need someone with experience in how city government works.”