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Bill Blesener chooses not to pursue re-election
Longtime Little Canada mayor’s term expires in December
When Bill Blesener ran for mayor in 2004, he thought he’d have a short-lived run as the city’s leader.
“When I got into this in the early 2000s, I thought I’d run once or twice at most,” Blesener explained.
Now, he’s been mayor for nine years (five two-year terms), with an additional seven years served as a council member.
However, with his term expiring at the end of the year and the campaign season gearing up for November’s election, Blesener has made the decision to not run for re-election.
“I think it’s time,” he said. “It’s time for some new ideas and new blood.”
Looking back at what he’s accomplished with the councils he’s served on, he highlighted a couple of projects, including a building expansion at St. Jude Medical and the Gervais Woods housing development.
City administrator Joel Hanson, who has worked with Blesener since 1989, also named him as a proponent of a new public works facility for the city, as well as the relocation of Viking Drive.
“The main thing is, he’s proud of Little Canada,” Hanson said.
“I think we’ve had a great council,” Blesener added. “We haven’t had any controversies in the last however many years. Past councils have been good at addressing needs of the city as they come up for the benefit of the city, not the individual.”
The biggest challenge the city faces in the near future is redevelopment, Blesener said. “There are a number of areas that need to be redeveloped that aren’t generating to their full potential.”
He also mentioned he thought the Metropolitan Council’s Thrive MSP 2040 growth projections were “ridiculous.” The local forecast, adopted by the Met Council in May, predicts Little Canada will add about 500 households and 3,200 jobs in the next 25 years, figures that Blesener thinks are too high.
“I think that will change before 2040,” he said.
Blesener said it’s important for any future mayor to be able to keep an even temper and open mind and mentioned other cities whose leaders have rocked the boat in recent years like Diana Longrie in Maplewood and John Kysylyczyn in Roseville.
“The city needs someone who will not agitate others, [and] not cause problems,” he explained. “They have to get along with city staff. We’ve had a good council, but that’s not always going to happen.
“Those [contentious] types of situations are absolutely no good for cities. You need to look at what’s best for the residents. Not everybody’s going to vote the same or agree with me, but you need to move on to the next issue.”
Current council member John Keis recently announced his plans to run for mayor. Blesener said he backs Keis fully.
“I wouldn’t be stepping down if it weren’t for the fact that we have an extremely qualified candidate in John Keis,” Blesener said.
Hanson said the city will miss Blesener’s “quality leadership” and will look to fill his seat with a “team player.”
“Bill’s been an excellent leader for the city,” Hanson said.
The filing period for the expiring Little Canada mayor and two city council seats opens July 29 and runs until Aug. 12.
Johanna Holub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.