Tom Quackenbush is not a politician, although he is learning what it means to be in that world.
As the mayor for the city of Redwood Falls as of the beginning of 2019, Quackenbush admitted he is learning a lot about his new role and all that it entails.
After determining he would throw his hat in the ring to run for mayor in 2018, Quackenbush began doing the research in an effort to best prepare himself for the duties of mayor.
“I started attending city council meetings,” said Quackenbush, adding he also had conversations and asked lots of questions of others who he thought could help prepare him for his role as one of the leaders in the community.
Quackenbush, who nears the end of his first three months as mayor, said he has been very busy as he serves the community, leads city council meetings, listens to questions and strives to find answers, connects with those who also serve the city and learns about each of the departments that make up the inner workings for the city.
“I have been asking a lot of questions,” he said. Quackenbush said he has been very impressed with what he has learned so far, adding he thinks the city is in very good shape and that the people are doing a great job.
Quackenbush also knows in his role he needs to provide that kind of validation to those who are part of the city.
For Quackenbush, the privilege of serving as mayor will help him to grow in what he called servant leadership. He has honed his skills as a leader in his position as plant manager at the Daktronics site in Redwood Falls, but the role of mayor will help him to take that to the next level. He also is gaining a deeper appreciation for the community where he lives and works.
The city staff have been extremely helpful through the first three months of the transition, said Quackenbush, adding they all have been great about getting him up to speed as the mayor.
While Quackenbush said he did not come into this role with a specific agenda of things he wants to see changed, there are issues he wants to address, and recently the process began of addressing one of those topics – housing in the community.
Earlier this month, Quackenbush met with other city leaders to kick off a process that he hopes will lead to an in-depth study and analysis of the city’s existing housing needs. As part of that meeting, the group met with consultants from ISG, which helped the city put together its most recent comprehensive plan.
Within that plan the topic of housing is addressed, and Quackenbush is hoping to help lead the discussion to take the ideas in that plan to the next level in an effort to figure out what the city needs and how that need can be achieved.
“We will be talking a lot more about this in the coming months,” said Quackenbush.
Stepping into the role of mayor in 2019 is exciting, said Quackenbush, adding the community is going to be seeing some pretty big changes in the not-so-distant future. Specifically, Quackenbush mentioned the upcoming hospital building project, as well as the reclamation of Lake Redwood as big projects that will be happening in the community.
“Those are fun things to talk about,” he said, adding he sees those both as positive steps forward for the city.
Starting as mayor in January 2019 was relatively quiet, said Quackenbush, but he added that really changed as the winter continued and the city saw significant snowfall. That entire process of understanding city protocol and processes for something as simple as snow removal became an eye opening experience for him.
Quackenbush said he thinks the city crew that has been working on that is doing a great job. Yes, he added, he got a lot of calls from people asking questions about snow removal.
That, he said, is all part of the job.
“The street department has been working very hard not only to remove the snow but to reduce the risks,” said Quackenbush, adding he gives them a lot of credit for the job that they do.
The city received news recently that its bond rating had been upgraded, and Quackenbush said that is no small thing for the community.
“Having that upgraded bond rating will allow us to do some aggressive things and save money along the way,” said Quackenbush, adding he understands helping keep property taxes in control is important for the property tax payers of the city.
Quackenbush has been able to visit the municipal airport, add-ing he is excited about the new upgrades that have been made there. One of the few things that surprised Quackenbush is the sheer number of people who are involved in one way or another in helping lead the city.
Whether they work for the city or serve in some role, such as on one of the community’s commissions, Quackenbush said he is quite impressed with the commitments they have all made.
“These are good people who care and have a passion for this city, and it shows up and down the line,” said Quackenbush, adding that has been a very welcome surprise.
In his role as mayor, Quackenbush said he wants to hear from people in the community, adding he welcomes questions and comments from those who want to help improve the city as well as those who have concerns.
“I invite people to contact me if they have a question or a concern,” said Quackenbush, adding his role is to serve every person in the City of Redwood Falls.
He also is willing to come and speak to different groups in his role as mayor. The public can reach Quackenbush via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The role of mayor has been a good experience for Quackenbush so far, he said, adding he is looking forward to whatever comes next.
In formal settings, such as city council meetings many refer to him as Mayor Quackenbush. Some in the role might prefer to be addressed as The Honorable Mayor.
For the new mayor of Redwood Falls, just calling him Tom will do just fine.