The city local elections are over and we are embarking in a new direction. Excitement is in the air. I want to reflect back on this past year and cover some things that have happened in Big Lake and “What a Difference Just Over One (1) Year Can Make”. In August, 2011, I accepted the position of the Big Lake City Administrator. The Mayor and City Council have taken a general philosophy of “no frills/no thrills, just paying the bills” budget process, and keeping the levy to a minimum over the years. City staff is working diligently to make realistic, prudent, and creative budget recommendations on both the revenue and expenditure side. Regarding levy needs, arguments can be made on both sides of that debate. The City Council set a levy at One Point Nine (1.9%). Being fiscally prudent and realistic is my mantra! Upon my hiring, I immediately developed a City Hall Staff Needs Analysis and Efficiency Review. Although this analysis ultimately led to the elimination of the Economic Development Director position in the City, it allowed us to restructure the Community Development Department in a cost saving manner. With some of that savings, the City was then able to hire a Finance Director, Ms. Paula Mastey, and a step which has been crucial in the City moving forward. Ms. Mastey started in February of 2012 and she is doing a wonderful job. The Finance Department has transitioned to handling the utility billing in-house, instead of it being outsourced; with this change, the City will see a cost saving and, ultimately, improved control and better service to the utility users in Big Lake. New Police Chief, Joel Scharf, is doing an excellent job as well. He will implement his departmental strategic plan in the Police Department. Our goal is to work together to foster a more positive public image of this City. Chief Scharf and I have begun to regularly “meet and greet” the local business owners to listen to concerns and inform them of city happenings. City staff annually has an organizational strategic planning process in which the Mayor, City Council Members and staff meet for an afternoon goal and visioning session. Our Finance Director plans on finding ways to reduce spending by investing in new phone/computer technologies, refinancing debt, setting up long range capital improvements planning, and capitalizing on grants targeted for specific needs. The Community Development Department has been active. You will notice the many new multi-family housing facilities near the NorthStar Commuter Transit Oriented Development (TOD) area (The Crossings at Big Lake Station 33-unit Townhouse Development and Cherrywood Advanced Living Facility). In 2013, we hope to see the development of another apartment complex in the TOD, called Northern Star Apartments, which is anticipated to be completed in 2013. MnDot’s Hwy 10 project is almost finished and should serve us for several years. Klein Bank’s new building on the corner of Co. Rd 43 and Highway 10; construction of this facility is under way and will be completed in 2013. Soon, look to see a new 9-unit retail and service business office complex next to the Coborn’s parking lot called the Lake Shopping Center 4th Addition. The Friendly Buffalo is expanding as well. Please stop by the Big Lake Farmers Market between 2 to 6 p.m. every Fridays (May 11th – Oct 5th). The City has been receiving more inquiries (retail and industrial) which are a promising sign. Big Lake is looking for ways to strategically develop a high quality community with the best possible services, culture, and business base possible. One promising strategy that the City feels can yield substantial long-term results is to form partnerships with the private and public sectors. The City wrote and received a grant from the Initiative Foundation to hire a consultant who will help us expand involvement of various business, township, city, county and school leaders to develop a 501c3 organization as a communication and ongoing support team for collaborative efforts that is focused on community engagement. The intent is to develop a support body to where the regular monthly meetings provide an agenda, minutes and record keeping. I want to encourage every Big Lake citizen to attend events, buy local, and get involved. I welcome your feedback, so if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 763-263-2107, ext. 237.