Council members cite his knowledge and experience, while not wanting decision to come across to the public as another sign of the 'good old boys club.'

Dale Stainbrook is going to be mayor of Crookston until at least the next mayoral election in November 2022, after the Crookston City Council at its Ways and Means Committee this week unanimously voted in favor of appointing him.

“I thank you for your support, it’s much appreciated,” Stainbrook told the council after the vote. “I really mean that.”

As for the vacancy Stainbrook’s appointment creates in Ward 5, which he represented on the council until last fall, when, as vice mayor he stepped in when first-year mayor Guy Martin abruptly resigned, the council, much like the process that finally filled the Ward 6 vacancy this week with Dylane Klatt, wants to hear from Ward 5 residents who are interested in being appointed to finish Stainbrook’s term, which is up for election in November 2020. Those interested need to write a letter to city hall indicating as such. Ward 5 residents who don’t want to be appointed but would like to serve on a committee that will interview potential appointees – council members, as in the case of the Ward 6 process, will not serve on the committee or be involved in the interviews – should contact city hall to indicate their interest. Although the council will have no role in the interviews, the council will have the final say via their vote on who is appointed from Ward 5.


An ultimatum, of sorts

Although he had said in recent weeks that he was OK with continuing to preside as mayor as the council continued to try and fill the Ward 6 vacancy, Stainbrook of late had expressed some restlessness, or at least a desire for some finality regarding the mayoral seat. During a discussion on that subject earlier this month, a motion was made by Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier and seconded by Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs to appoint Stainbrook mayor until the November 2022 election. But when some council members during that discussion complimented Stainbrook’s performance as mayor but also voiced concerns with appointing him directly without soliciting the public to gauge interest from those interested in being interviewed and potentially appointed mayor, Cavalier withdrew his motion to appoint Stainbrook.

It was a bit of deja vu this week, except that Stainbrook this time around said that he’d heard “rumors” that some council members would be interested in appointing him mayor as long as he appointed their preferred Ward 5 resident to finish out the months remaining on his Ward 5 term.

“I think that’s dirty politics and I won’t play that game,” Stainbrook said. “…I’m just hearing the rumors, that’s all I’m saying.”

Stainbrook also indicated that if the council wasn’t interested in appointing him, the Jan. 27 meeting would be the last at which he’d preside as mayor and that he’d return to his Ward 5 seat. (Briggs, as vice mayor, presumably would have slid into the mayor’s chair in that event.) 

Stainbrook, who’s run twice unsuccessfully for mayor previously, said, “If I have to interview to be in this chair, I won’t do it. I know the politics of this council.”

So Cavalier made the same motion he did earlier this month, and Briggs again seconded it.

In making the motion again, Cavalier noted Stainbrook’s experience and also added that, in his view, council meetings had gone smoother and were more respectful and professional since Stainbrook moved into the mayor’s chair.

While it appears some council members had many of the same concerns they did during the discussion on the mayor position earlier this month – there was a fear of making it look to Crookston residents like City government is a “good old boys club” if they directly appointed Stainbrook – the tide slowly turned toward handing the mayoral reins to Stainbrook until the November 2022 election. Council members cited Stainbrook’s knowledge and experience and all of the time and effort he’s put in over the years as a council member and recently as mayor, a time commitment, Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson noted, that might not be fully appreciated by any Crookston residents casually thinking about being mayor.

“I understand someone coming in cold, that would be tough,” Erickson said. “But if we do make this decision, we need to be able to say this is why we did it. …If we put (Stainbrook) in, it’s because (he’s) the most experienced. If we fill the mayor (seat), then fill Ward 5, then we have a full council and mayor and we can get down to business and get things done for this community.”

“I’ve seen Dale all over the place and I feel comfortable with Dale doing this, as long as there’s no riot over us skipping the process,” Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee added.

As for filling the Ward 5 seat, although Stainbrook said he’d spoken to several people in the ward that, according to him, didn’t want to go through the sometimes difficult, interview-based process involved with filling the Ward 6 vacancy and simply wanted him to pick someone to be appointed, council members were gun-shy about going that route, and endorsed a repeat of the Ward 6 process.

“No offense to anyone, but the people of the ward should have a say in who represents them,” Klatt said in participating in his first meeting, although he hasn’t yet been sworn in to the Ward 6 seat and wasn’t able to vote. “I think the interview process was fair.”