The Rotary Club of Excelsior met today – Tuesday, January 19, 2021 via Zoom with our featured speaker Brad Wiersum, Minnetonka Mayor and the introduction of Padee Yang our Club’s Global Peace Scholar Candidate.
The Opening Marshal was Randy Schumacher and let us in the Pledge and the 4-Way Test.  Randy then commented on good leadership qualities such as strong leader, clear vision, integrity, transparency, empathy for others and supports and gives credit to others.  Padee Yany our Club sponsored candidate was introduced by Steve Frazier.  Padee is a resident of Chanhassen she went to Excelsior Elementary School, MHS and B.S. Degree from the U of M.   She will be interviewed by the District 5950 on Wednesday, January 27 at 4PM.  We will be her sponsor ant the St. Marylebone Rotary Club of London will be her host club as she goes for her Master’s degree.  She has a very impressive resume having served in the Peace Corp in Mzimba, Malawi and also worked in Greece and Uganda.  We wish her the best and she will be formally introduced at our next meeting on February 2nd.  President Kate noted that Nick Ruehl, Paul Huber and Kate all had Birthdays in this two week period between meetings.  Jill Holter announced that she will be sending members a form to complete that asks for information to highlight our members on social media and to also include a photo.  President Kate completed the announcements by listing the up-coming speakers: February 2nd will be Jean Gray’s Bio, February 16th will be Todd Carlson-Excelsior Mayor, and March 2nd will be David Schultz – Political Analysist.
Mayor Brad Wiersum complimented our club and Rotary for the great work that we do globally and in our community and noted that his Dad was a Rotarian and he attended a meeting with him in 1970.  Brad moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota in 1978 and has been a 30 year resident of Minnetonka.  He was elected to the City Council in 2003 and is now in his 4th year as Minnetonka’s Mayor.   The Mayor covered a litany of topics.  He started with the Pandemic and that it literally is a full-time job to manage all the elements of handling Covid and to protect the staff and the public during the crisis.  Minnetonka mandated the wearing of facemasks one day before the state mandate.  The financial impact has been huge.  Yes Federal Aid covered some of the basic costs but not all the lost revenue to the city revenues and fees and to all the businesses.
Next Brad discussed the City Council and City Services.  Minnetonka’s City Council is a very experienced group and they have three new members this year that bring their own point of view and new ideas.  City Services are doing well in the areas of Public Safety, Streets, Water/Sewer, and Parks and Trails.  Development and growth are doing well especially in the areas of Ridgedale and Opus II especially in apartment complexes and Senior Housing.  Mayor Wiersum is proud of the efforts in Minnetonka to work on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion especially after the death of George Floyd.  He said that we all have biases and he is working on his and the City has created a position to help in that area.  Environmentally the City is working on many fronts.  The City of Minnetonka Offices and Buildings became 100% Solar in 2020.  They are interviewing for a Sustainability Commission for 2021. The City has been awarded a Monarch Champion community for promoting pollinators.  The Public Safety Department has a new building for the Fire and Police.  Both departments are gender appropriate with a wide range of services and their fleet is now all indoors saving on upkeep and maintenance.
The Mayor is very proud of the City’s Parks and Trails.  He noted that many people enjoy the trails but also a large number of people now use them to get to work and major funding comes from franchises.  He discussed the new Crane Lake Reserve with trails, picnic area and water access.  Even Ridgedale Parkway is being upgraded, beautified and will have a round-a –bout.  And finally noted that the city has just completed a Strategic Plan prioritizing its priorities of financial stability, safe environment for people, sustainability, livability, infrastructure and community inclusiveness.
As always the Q&A was great.  Many members that reside in Minnetonka complemented the Mayor on its services and interaction with the community.  Light Rail gives access to jobs (48,000), businesses and housing.   Water & Sewer will have modest increases (3.5%) to upgrade and maintain over the next few years.  Federal Aid doesn’t come directly to the City but through grants through agencies and also the State.  Institutional Bias towards people of color - especially the police allowed the Mayor to give more detail.  Minnetonka has 13% people of color and the Community Involvement Officer is there to build relationships with communities of color and the Chief of Police is totally behind it and the Mayor shows up for meetings to hear what is going right and wrong in the city and to listen and act on concerns.  Mayor Wiersum said, “We are an Inclusive and Welcoming City!”  Polling of residents give the City of Minnetonka an 85-90% Satisfaction Rating but the Mayor pointed out that you have to listen to the 10% dissatisfaction concerns if you want to be equitable and change for the better.  Opus Complex and Affordable Housing – All developments requesting municipal assistance are required to provide 10% affordable housing in their residential complexes.  Mayor Brad Wiersum represented the City of Minnetonka well and we are lucky to have people like Brad providing such great leadership in our community.