A changing of the guard

As 2018 came to an end, several area elected officials said goodbye as they closed out their terms.

Council member Paul Hark served in his last Inver Grove Heights City Council meeting Dec. 10. He lost his bid for a second term to Brenda Dietrich.

South St. Paul City Council members Todd Podgorski and Marilyn Rothecker served in their last meeting Dec. 17, where both were presented with plaques for their service.

Rothecker, who did not seek re-election, began serving on the council in 2007. She said during her final meeting that when she called 12 years ago to find out who was running for the council, all the names she was given were men.

“I got off the phone, looked at my husband and said, ‘They’re all men running. Where are the women?’” Rothecker said. “’I’m going to run,’ and he looked at me and said, ‘Well you’re going to do what you want to do anyways, so go do it.’”

Rothecker thanked her husband and daughter. She also thanked the community for supporting her for 12 years.  

Podgorski ran for a Dakota County Board of Commissioners seat in 2018 instead of seeking re-election to the council. He was first elected in 2011. He thanked his family for the support over the years, as well as city staff and fellow council members with whom he worked

“You know for me, public office and public safety are really callings for me, so it’s just an honor to be up here and to participate in something that’s really larger than myself,” Podgorski said. “When we talk about some of these ideas like public parks and the Woog Arena ... It’s fun to work on big projects that have a big impact on our community.”

He said some highlights of his work on the council include work on public parks and the Woog Arena, as well as efforts to expand the police department and being able to help with the prosperity of the Economic Development Authority. 

Dec. 10 marked the final meeting for West St. Paul City Council members Ed Iago and John Bellows. 

Bellows, who represented Ward 3, thanked council members and said it had always been a pleasure working with them, “sometimes more than less and more than other times, because we don’t always agree.”

“A friend of mine, who was a longtime Navy chief, had a favorite saying and it was, ‘It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable.’ I think that’s the essence of moving forward,” he said.

Bellows thanked everyone who had expressed an opinion during citizen comments during the last year, which had been a tumultuous one in West St. Paul city government with accusations of sexism on the council. While he may have not always agreed with what was said, Bellows said they exercised their right and duty as a citizen. He wished the best to the new council, saying it was rewarding and important work.

Iago, who represented Ward 2, wished the council good luck in the future. 

Jenny Halverson did not run for re-election as West St. Paul mayor. Then-council member Dave Napier ran against council member Anthony Fernandez for the mayor’s seat, and Napier came out on top. Residents had a chance to apply for Napier’s open seat, and the council decided Jan. 2 to form a sub-committee of the council to figure out who’s best fit. Fernandez has two years remaining in his council term.


—Hannah Burlingame

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