Kudos to St. Cloud’s longtime mayor

Opinion editor’s notice: Editorials symbolize the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


If it have been attainable to calculate the share of St. Cloud residents who’ve personally met their mayor, and evaluate it to the share of residents of different medium-sized Minnesota cities who’ve met theirs, it is seemingly that St. Cloud would come out on high. The identical can be true in the event you might measure the share of residents who’ve been to the mayor’s home for dinner. Or who’ve the mayor’s cellphone quantity.

The folks of St. Cloud have loved exceptionally easy accessibility to their high elected official for almost 20 years, which says much less about them than it does about Dave Kleis, their mayor. By his personal depend, Kleis has held 987 city corridor conferences since changing into mayor in 2005, and he figures to break 1,000 someday this summer time. Then in January, he plans to swear in his substitute.

After a string of profitable re-election campaigns, Kleis announced last month that he doesn’t plan to search one other time period. It’s a secure guess that the following mayor will discover his instance powerful to comply with.

Kleis, the longest-serving mayor in St. Cloud’s historical past, instructed an editorial author this week that the important thing to his governing type is the making and nurturing of relationships. That’s an strategy he realized when he served as a Republican within the state Senate, from 1995 to 2005. “I had really good friendships with folks on both sides of the aisle,” he stated. “It was all about policy, but you built relationships.”

“Relationships were part of the key to success, so when I became mayor, it was even more important in an executive role to build relationships,” he stated. “You really can’t govern unless you know people. … That’s why I do all the town-hall meetings. That’s why I do the dinners with strangers.”

“Dinners with strangers” is simply what it feels like. People who do not already know the mayor can enroll to attend a month-to-month dinner at his residence. He makes chili. If the climate is nice, he and his visitors eat on the deck. “We have great conversations,” Kleis stated.

For an instance of how such relationships can show helpful, he pointed to the aftermath of stabbings on the Crossroads Center mall in 2016, when a younger Somali-American wounded at the very least 10 folks earlier than being killed by an off-duty police officer. “Anywhere in the country, you could take that same situation and it would have created a riot,” Kleis stated.

“I had the cellphone numbers of all the individuals I needed to talk to. They had my number. I spent hours on the phone that night, talking to folks from the East African community, the NAACP, our community policing folks,” he recalled. “That was because of the relationships, that we didn’t have a riot and a breakdown. … You build trust with relationships.”

There is a draw back, although, to being perpetually obtainable to his constituents: It’s been a long time since Kleis has had an actual break. He has traveled, he says, however due to expertise he has by no means been in a position to disconnect absolutely from his job.

“In mid-January, as soon as my official duties are done and the new mayor is settled in and comfortable in that position — and I’ll do everything I can to help with a great transition, whoever that may be — I’ll be taking a very long vacation,” he stated, laughing. “Without a cellphone, or at least without a cellphone that’s connected to email.”

Although he will likely be leaving the mayor’s workplace, he’s not retiring. Kleis, 60, nonetheless runs a driver’s schooling enterprise. He has in thoughts a guide that he’d like to write. And although he stated he has “no thought” of operating for elective workplace once more, he needs to stay concerned in serving the general public indirectly.

“I believe service is lifelong,” he stated. Good for him.

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