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What next? Baxter City Council reacts after mayor's resignation

Newly appointed Baxter Mayor Todd Holman said the council had no time to discuss next steps after the surprise resignation of Darrel Olson, but that will happen in February.

Newly appointed Baxter Mayor Todd Holman said the council had no time to discuss next steps after the surprise resignation of Darrel Olson, but that will happen in February.

"We didn't have a chance as a council to talk about what the next steps are," Holman said. "We certainly didn't discuss it (Tuesday) night. I think the next step is to work with staff for the process."

When there have been vacancies with the council in the past, the position was posted and informal applications submitted. Interviews were then set up and a recommendation made to fill the vacancy.

"I would expect something similar to that," Holman said. "I'm expecting it to be like that and we'll have more clarity at the next meeting."

The city will have to adhere to its policies and be open about the process, Holman said.

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"I think that's the position we all have to take and we'll behave accordingly," he said.

Olson covered a lot of ground and was tireless in representing the city, Holman said.

For now, Holman said the council's and his own daunting challenge will be to fill the hole left with Olson's departure.

Holman has thought of himself as Olson's wingman. Now the full responsibility of the office will fall to him. "I will do my best," Hollman said. Holman said he believes Olson, who is thorough, turned over every stone trying to figure this issue out before his resignation Tuesday night.

"To me it was a heart-wrenching moment just to call for the action," Holman said of the council voting to accept Olson's resignation. "So I think the whole council felt the gravity of the situation."

Council members either found out about the resignation just before the meeting or during.

"We've lost a very good member of our council and we need to fill that vacancy at some point in the future and I believe we have a process we have used in the past for filling that vacancy," said council member Mark Cross. "We've called for interested parties to submit a short bio to tell us they are interested and then we as a council meet to discuss those and appoint the person we feel would best represent the city.

"I think we are pretty busy at the moment and I would think we'd wait a month or so and call for interested parties to contact us."

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Cross said that's the way things have been handled in the past and he didn't believe there was a reason to deviate from it.

Other council members, Cross and Holman included, were appointed to fill vacancies created through resignations. Newcomers on the council this year, Quinn Nystrom and Steve Barrows are waiting to learn more about the city procedure to fill a vacancy.

"I haven't had any time frankly to even think about it," Nystrom said. "Darrel has done a great job as mayor of Baxter. I think he's done a great job running the city."

Nystrom said Olson is passionate about his work for the city and shows great interest in both projects and people, which she thought was really important.

"I don't think there are a lot of people qualified for that job," Nystrom said. "I have full faith in him as a mayor, but what procedurally will happen I have no idea."

Barrows first had a glimmer of what was to come when he saw the resignation letter in front of Olson on the council desk. He said he was stunned at the news.

"I'm ashamed of what PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association of Minnesota) has placed the Olsons in," Barrows said. "That just to me is wrong."

In terms of the office, Barrows said he's amazed at the turn of events and the process.

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"This is certainly a dynamic I don't think anyone would have predicted," Barrows said. "It really puts a lot of pressure on each of us with experience and without experience ... I was shocked when this came about and we'll have to figure out how to deal with it."

With the council looking at multi-million dollar road projects and decision-making, Barrows said this forced resignation throws a wrench into the city operations. "It just brought a whole level of unknown to my experience, so it's going to be interesting."

Barrows said he's appreciated Olson's leadership over the years before he was on the council and since he was elected this past fall. Now following the process of filling the vacancy after the mayor's resignation is one that deserves a fair approach from each council member, Barrows said.

Barrows made the motion to accept Olson's resignation and on Tuesday said he was doing so with a heavy heart.

"The response we had when we had to accept his resignation speaks well for the job we feel the mayor did," Barrows said. "I don't think any of us see this as a performance issue by the mayor."

Barrows said it will be curious over the course of the next 30 days to see if other people are interested in the mayoral post. "Politics is an unpredictable game."

The action to fill the mayor's post won't happen overnight, Barrows said.

Cross seemed to sum up the general feeling from the council in the aftermath as they digest the news and consider future steps.

"I think we all can say he did a wonderful job as mayor," Cross said.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .

Darrel Olson
Darrel Olson

Related Topics: BAXTER
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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