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Minnesota National Guard
Spring Lake Park mayor looks back on four years

Before Mayor Bob Nelson tapped the gavel to close his final Spring Lake Park council meeting Monday night, his farewell remarks were brief but emotional

"I didn't want to get choked up, but it's been an honor to serve this city and its residents," he said

"We've made great progress, the council is good, we have top quality staff people" Nelson added "There have been a lot of good things done I wish Cindy Hansen the best as your new mayor Have a Merry Christmas Thank you"

The Dec 20 hour-and-a-half meeting was filled with standard scheduling fare such as license renewals, an ordinance amendment and liquor license approvals for the coming year

However, two agenda items were uniquely tied to Nelson's work during his four years of mayor recognition awards for the community's holiday lighting contest and a proclamation honoring an adopted military unit that's participating in the city's Beyond The Yellow Ribbon campaign

Nelson placed that effort at the top of his list of accomplishments

"It's the one I have the most pride in," Nelson said "We were the first city to Anoka County to do it In a year and four months, I had 597 hours of service invested It's the only program I did as mayor where I kept track of the hours"

The effort, which also involves Kraus-Hartig VFW Post 6587, is designed to increase the awareness of challenges service members and especially families face as a result of deployments

Gov Tim Pawlenty presented Spring Lake Park's "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon City" proclamation during a Sept 22 ceremony

Approximately 30 counties, cities and companies were recognized for on-going efforts to support the nation's servicemen, women and families

The campaign calls for counties, cities, companies, churches, campuses and K-12 schools to support military families on a continuous basis, Nelson said

"Our Minnesota National Guard units are getting deployed two, three and even four times," he said "These families have great needs I was proud to be involved with this program at the beginning We've set a high example and standard that other cities should be able to follow so there aren't families missed"

Next month, Nelson said he will become a Beyond The Yellow Ribbon media chairman and start work on a North Metro Cable Channel 15 program that will explore the needs of veterans and promote the program

"I'm hoping to bring other cities such as Blaine and Coon Rapids into this program," Nelson added

District 16's mammoth Spring Lake Park High School renovation project and the Able Street and Terrace Road reconstruction project were also completed during Nelson's term

He had high praise for both infrastructure projects

"When you have a school like that and have good roads within the city, it makes people want to move here, stay here and call it their home," Nelson said "The city was very cooperative with the school, and it was a joint venture"

Holding the line on tax increases was another key issue for Nelson

During his term as mayor, he voted twice against raising property taxes

"That's been an uphill battle," he said "My goal was to wean it back a little bit at a time I wanted to start cutting back to avoid a balloon effect later on"

Nelson said a "perfect storm" of continuing bad economic conditions in the next year or two could cause problems for cities the size of Spring Lake Park

"There's going to be massive changes, and services provided to residents will be hugely impacted," he said "Times are going to get worse with the state"

The city's new skateboard park was another accomplishment mentioned by Nelson

He said the park is the city's busiest in terms of use

"I don't know how many seniors I've had stop me on the street and say there are no ramps or rails in the street I fought four years as a councilmember to get the skateboard park When I became mayor, I said, let's move, we have the money and let's do it and provide a safe and structured place"

Nelson is not giving up on local politics He plans to run again, but when asked what office he would pursue, he said with a laugh, "That's being debated"

An attempt to return as a Spring Lake Park councilmember might be in the offing in two years, Nelson said, then another mayoral campaign two years later
"I most likely will run in two years and most definitely for mayor in four," he said, adding a three-way voter split surprised him

"It meant a make-or-break election," Nelson said, referring to his battle against Hanson and Jason Letourneau, a Spring Lake Park Planning and Zoning Commission member

Prior to becoming mayor, Nelson also served two years as planning and zoning member (2004 to 2006) and was a council member from 2000 to 2004

Nelson was caught up in the moment as he prefaced his last official council meeting comments as mayor

"This is going to be the hard part," he said After receiving applause from fellow councilmembers, city staff and audience members, Nelson entertained a motion to adjourn

His last words as mayor? "Good night"

Tim Hennagir is at timhennagir@ecm-inccom
Saturday, December 25, 2010 3:00 pm by Tim Hennagir
by Tim Hennagir
Life Editor

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