LETTER TO THE EDITOR: We need servant leadership from our mayor and council

The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.


Servant leadership — that’s what we want from our mayor and council. Sadly, what we are getting is self-serving leadership regarding their treatment of our city staff. Whether considering development projects or the day-to-day of managing 100-plus staff, we can’t afford the path this council has set upon.

The council’s actions are putting the city at risk and we residents will bear the costs. Here are some outcomes of making shortsighted decisions.

In addition to breaking staff trust, undermining the city’s ability to recruit leadership and potentially damaging our financial rating with Moody’s, the council is costing us real money.

Outside council has already cost you and me nearly $5,000 ($4,825 approved in Monday’s bill list) and will only climb as the council continues trying to maneuver around state data practices law, the City Charter and public opinion.

It’s hard to imagine the costs that result from delayed work and projects, but the cost of doing nothing — opportunity costs — adds up quickly. The value of a seasoned city manager and staff cannot be overstated.


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Let’s consider three big projects that will languish without someone at the helm guiding them. The rail corridor wellness project comes to mind.

The city manager and his staff are coordinating consultants — with Port Authority, Braun Intertec — negotiating land purchase with BNSF, negotiating a development agreement with Krause Anderson that includes a purchase agreement and financing scenarios that will likely include tax increment financing and our financial consultant Ehlers, and monitoring grant applications and timing.

How about the potential for partnering with Northern Township to extend utilities and protect lake Bemidji? That complex issue will take staff time and effort to manage a multi-jurisdictional planning process. It’s a timely opportunity and we need all hands on deck to figure it out.

Finally, the city has been working with an architectural firm for eight months to plan and design a new fire/city hall. The city manager and staff are coordinating and overseeing their work.

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At the March 20 public works committee meeting members instructed the city manager and finance director to investigate numerous funding scenarios to pay for it. We can’t afford a void at city hall that would put our investment at risk.

Bemidji is a wonderful community and Mr. Mathews does an exemplary job of running our city.


To respond to all the questions I'm getting about what's going on at city hall; there is nothing wrong at city hall except the turmoil caused by our self-serving council.

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