#155: Richfield, MN 3/27/18

When the sheriff shows up in cowboy movies, it’s a sure sign the bad guy is going down.

“To make sure he got here in time, [he] hustled the vice president out of town so he wouldn’t be late,” joked Richfield Mayor Pat Elliott, welcoming the top cop to apparently the second-most important event of his day.

The sheriff stared down his nemesis: a slide show on the computer. “Which do you think it is? Arrow to the right?” he mused aloud. “Up-down?”

Everyone waited patiently while he solved the mystery of the puzzling PowerPoint. “Help,” the lawman murmured, proving that sometimes even heroes need heroes.

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I believe in you.

Finally he got the hang of it and opened with a bit of trivia.

“I will not ask you, Mr. Mayor, what are the names of the three rivers that flow through Hennepin County. But I know you know the Crow, the Mississippi, and–what’s that last one?” he stumped himself.

“Minnesota,” Mayor Elliott replied, acing the rivers pop quiz.

But between those rivers lay a festering problem, and the sheriff turned on the rhetorical lights and sirens for his nearly 200 opioid overdoses.

“If I had 162 homicides in Hennepin County last year, I’d bet that it’d be in the front page of the Star Tribune or on the 4, 5, 9, 10, 11–all news channels in between. But it’s not.”

As frustrated as he was by the drug deaths, the sheriff was also irritated at himself for the crime of third-degree long-windedness.

“I promised you, Mr. Mayor and council members, eight to ten minutes. I took eight minutes and 35 seconds. I went a little bit over.”

As he surrendered the lectern, Mayor Elliott welcomed a former mayor who had since risen to the ranks of the elite.

“Commissioner [Debbie] Goettel, it is good to see you! You’re back in your stomping grounds,” he gushed. “I hope you have some words of wisdom for us yourself.”

“There are some pretty startling facts that he didn’t share with you,” she countered, dodging any happy wisdom and instead beelining to the opioid wisdom.

“They are disproportionately affecting our younger folks. Anywhere from the age of 15 to about 45.”

After waiting a beat to digest the news, Council Member Edwina Garcia confessed, “we still miss you.”

“I beg your pardon!” exclaimed the current occupant of the mayor’s seat.

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Mayor brawl!

“I mean we,” Garcia quickly clarified, referring to the royal “we.” “Not necessarily sitting right here,” she jabbed at the mayor.

I don’t know who would win in the battle of the mayors. But I will admit: the high point of the meeting was when Mayor Elliott revealed the catchy slogan for “council member announcements.”

“On to ‘Hats Off to Hometown Hits,’” he said.

In his Hometown Hit, the mayor offered the most striking analogy of the day. “Anytime you get a special verdict form that comes back that’s in your favor–this is gonna sound a little strange,” he admitted, holding up an official document. “But when I get one like this, it’s akin to the birth of a child. We got one this past week.”

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Boy or girl?

But Council Member Maria Regan Gonzalez used her Hometown Hit to once again ground her colleagues. “This morning we met with our congressman, Congressman Ellison. The opioid crisis, we did talk about that.”

Well, I think we know what Richfield Public Enemy Number One is. Citizens, let’s run these opioids out of town like they are the vice president.

#84: Cape Girardeau, MO 2/6/17

There’s an old saying in the Midwest: the only thing more unpredictable than the waters of the mighty Mississippi River are the Cape Girardeau city council meetings.

More than a dozen onlookers chatted breezily, flipping through agenda packets. A dog yipped from somewhere in the back row as the meeting was gaveled to order. The dais was light two council members–Bob Fox and Wayne Bowen left empty chairs and broken hearts in their absence.

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If anyone recognizes this man, please tell me what his shirt loves.

But the time for mourning faded quickly, as city manager Scott Meyer whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a tale of heroism and intrigue.

“We had one nice story about something our employees do all the time: going the second mile,” he bragged to the audience. “We recently had a firefighter who, in taking care of a trucker who had to be taken by ambulance [and] was really concerned about his truck….He took it upon himself to go the second mile and to take care of that truck and get it safe and secured.”

Council members leaned forward eagerly as Meyer proudly added, “and that’s just something your friends and neighbors do every day.” Yes, every day the streets are chock full of abandoned–but well taken care of–trucks.

Then without warning, the city manager veered off script.

“One more announcement. Julia’s gonna make that for me,” he smirked.

Council members swiveled their heads quizzically toward the podium. I don’t like the looks of this. How bad is the news that he had to outsource it?!

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This man is contemplating how quickly he can bolt for the exit.

“Thank you, Scott,” smiled Julia. “It’s my distinct pleasure and honor to announce that our mayor, Harry Rediger, was accepted as the Outstanding Public Official for this past year!”

Cheers and whistles exploded in the chamber. The dog howled. Mayor Rediger sheepishly flipped through his packet.

“I didn’t see that on the agenda,” he quipped.

“No! We were trying to keep it a surprise,” exclaimed Julia.

The mayor flashed a big grin.”Well, you did!”

Who says there are no secrets in small towns! In fact, I bet those two missing council members were about to spill the beans–until Julia took care of them. (Permanently.)

Julia advised His Honor to mark the ceremony on his calendar. “At our conference in Branson on March 9, we’re hoping you’ll be able to make it.”

The city manager lurched in his chair. “March 9?! That’s the night of a strategic plan meeting.” He feigned begrudging acceptance and clapped a hand on the mayor’s shoulder. “But you can miss ONE.”

Mayor Rediger was still a wee bit embarrassed from all the attention. “I told ’em I was gonna go to every one of them!” he said apologetically to the city manager. Then he turned to Julia.

“I can make that.”

After all that excitement, the meeting moved swiftly and uneventfully to a close. Even the chicken ordinance, which normally would get my feathers ruffled, failed to take flight.

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Gentlemen, aren’t our animals regulated ENOUGH?!

Final thoughts: For being able to pull off a surprise, I give Julia and the city manager 10 out of 10 strippers-jumping-out-of-cakes.