Olson appointed Baxter mayor
BAXTER - Darrel Olson is once again mayor of Baxter. The Baxter City Council unanimously voted to appoint Olson during a special Tuesday night meeting. City council members Todd Holman, Mark Cross, Quinn Nystrom and Steve Barrows stood as Olson t...
BAXTER - Darrel Olson is once again mayor of Baxter.
The Baxter City Council unanimously voted to appoint Olson during a special Tuesday night meeting.
City council members Todd Holman, Mark Cross, Quinn Nystrom and Steve Barrows stood as Olson took the oath of office.
"It was an interesting feeling applying for my own job with two years left on my previous election," Olson said after the meeting.
Holman, who served as acting mayor in the interim, said at this meeting he was reflecting on the moment when stunned members of the council reacted in an extended silence as Olson repeatedly sought a motion to accept his resignation.
"That was very much appreciated," Olson said.
Holman presided over Tuesday's meeting with Olson sitting in the audience. Serving as acting mayor was a privilege, Holman said. The last 30 days, Holman said, allowed him to realize the sheer volume of activities and civic opportunities to represent the city. Holman said the volume of effort was a humbling recognition of what Olson has been doing for years. No one was more glad Olson was back, Holman said. He added Olson's absence was definitely felt by the council.
Before the council vote, Holman said the past month gave him the opportunity to appreciate the role of the former mayor more than he ever had in the past.
Holman said everyone he met was full of accolades and profoundly supportive of Olson as mayor and the work the city staff and officials are doing.
Olson's forced resignation came at a time when the city has also been without its administrator as Gordon Heitke is recovering following a double-hip replacement. Holman said relying on Kelly Steele, assistant city administrator, was key.
"We've got a good council," Holman said, adding everyone works together so no one person has to carry the entire load. "I just missed Darrel's voice, leadership and input and now it's back. I feel good about that."
"We've got a good council," council member Todd Holman said, adding everyone works together so no one person has to carry the entire load. "I just missed Darrel's voice, leadership and input and now it's back. I feel good about that."
Olson, Baxter mayor for a decade, resigned Jan. 20 after he was told he had to leave office or lose retirement benefits based on a little-known law. He ran unopposed in the last election with his term expiring in 2016. Olson said he was forced into resigning by the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) of Minnesota, which cited a statute requiring a 30-day separation between a PERA job and his elected position. Olson retired from his job as a Crow Wing County assessor in 2013 while he was serving his term as mayor. While the law was changed going forward for elected officials, there wasn't a consideration for others affected by the law.
Olson was forced to resign and wait out the 30 days of separation. In the interim, the council announced it would accept letters of interest from candidates. Tuesday, the council met in a special session to review those letters and potentially interview candidates. It turned out that second step wasn't required. Olson's letter was the only one the city received.
At the time of his resignation, Olson said he was blindsided by the event and frustrated to consider people may think he did something wrong with a mid-term resignation. And he worried about the people who are counting on his involvement in a multitude of events. Olson said he was pleasantly surprised to receive the support from residents in the days after he resigned.
Olson said he knew the city was in good hands, adding that lifted a weight off his shoulders but he also knew it left more work for others without a full council.
"A lot continued to get done," Darrel Olson, Baxter mayor for a decade, said of the past month. "We've got a lot to do. It's easier when you have a full house."
"A lot continued to get done," Olson said of the past month. "We've got a lot to do. It's easier when you have a full house."
Olson noted with Heitke's absence and his own, both Holman and Steele really had to step up.
Olson said he was still disgusted at how the disruption came about. He'd checked with PERA before retiring. A year-and-a-half passed with retirement payments made before PERA sent Olson a letter saying he had an "erroneous retirement" and threatened to withhold future retirement benefits.
In the aftermath, Olson said he was gratified by the public support.
"I've never had anything happen like that," he said Tuesday night after regaining his mayoral duties. "Your mind starts racing."
And now, he said, "it's over."
RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5852 or email@example.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .