Bemidji City Council moves to hold additional non-annual review of city manager

The Bemidji City Council adjusted course from holding City Manager Nate Mathews’ annual review on March 29, instead setting the meeting as an additional non-annual evaluation of performance.

Bemidji City Hall
Bemidji City Hall. Pioneer file photo

BEMIDJI — During its meeting on Monday night, the Bemidji City Council once again adjusted course regarding the annual review of City Manager Nate Mathews.

While in a previous meeting the council had agreed to hold Mathews’ annual review on March 29, following legal counsel from law firm Flaherty and Hood, Mayor Jorge Prince shared the recommendation to change the meeting from the annual review to an additional non-annual evaluation of performance.

“There are some related underlying matters I recommend be addressed and discussed between the city council and the city manager along with legal counsel before the city council discusses the city manager's annual performance evaluation process further,” Prince stated, “or considers actions to take, if any, related to the city manager’s annual performance evaluation process.”

Prince then shared the motions that had been recommended to him by legal counsel and that he looked to the council to provide.

“I would entertain the following motions, to schedule a special city council meeting for March 29, 2023, for a non-annual evaluation of the performance of (the city manager)... and to direct and authorize legal counsel along with Flaherty and Hood P.A. to attend and provide legal guidance at the meeting,” Prince said.


Members of the council proceeded to make these motions, which both passed unanimously.

Prior to this meeting, the council had been planning to hold Mathews’ annual review on March 29 and had discussed and approved a process for the review that had been agreed upon by both Mathews’ and the council.

The ongoing conversation around the review of the city manager initially began in January, after At-large Councilor Audrey Thayer added a surprise addition to a meeting’s agenda asking to schedule a discussion on Mathews’ continued employment.

This original wording was eventually walked back following legal advice and a level of public backlash and adjusted to holding Mathews’ annual review earlier in the year.

Now it appears that the meeting on March 29 will not be Mathews’ annual review, but an additional non-annual performance evaluation.

Other business

The council also approved a resolution that requested a joint meeting with Northern Township to continue discussions on the township’s plan to develop a water and sewer system that would connect to Bemidji’s infrastructure.

This follows a work session held by the council that reviewed several options presented by city staff after concerns were raised about Northern Township’s proposal and the precedents it could set.

A resolution approving a grant application for Algoma Park was also passed during Monday’s meeting. The grant would revitalize the park with an updated parking lot and playground.


“Algoma Park is one of the most in-need parks and highest priority,” said Marcia Larson, Bemidji’s director of Parks and Recreation. “Some of these items we looked at doing a couple of years ago, but then we ran out of funding.”

The grant would require a 50% match by the city for the amount of $130,000, which would come out of Bemidji’s American Rescue Plan dollars.

The final item of business on the city council’s agenda was a resolution supporting state legislative efforts encouraging local options for ranked choice voting.

The resolution of support passed 4-2, with Prince and Ward 2 Councilor Josh Peterson in opposition. Prince explained that, for his part, his vote against the resolution was not against ranked choice voting, but because he was aware of mixed opinions in the community.

If passed at the state level, Bemidji and other municipalities that oversee elections would have the choice to pursue ranked choice voting in the future.

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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