by Dennis Dalman
There was a bittersweet, end-of-an-era feeling in the air Dec. 10 as three of the five Sartell City Council members bid farewell at their last meeting of 2018.
The three are council members Pat Lynch and David Peterson and mayor, Sarah Jane Nicoll. They served up bouquets of praise and a flurry of thanks in saying their goodbyes.
Fighting back tears at times, Nicoll said the farewell is a “bittersweet” experience, noting that she will now have more time with her family. Nicoll announced months ago she did not intend to file for re-election.
In the Nov. 6 election, council member Ryan Fitzthum was elected as the new mayor for Sartell. He defeated his fellow council member Peterson, the other candidate vying for the mayor’s position. Peterson has served on the city council for 12 years.
Fitzthum was elected to the council in 2016, which means there are still two years left on his four-year term. One of the first orders of business for the new council in January is to decide how to appoint or elect somebody to fill the two years remaining of Fitzthum’s term.
Sartell residents also elected two new council members – Tim Elness and Jeff Kolb. Those members, along with Mayor Fitzthum, will be sworn in at the first meeting in January. After that is accomplished, there will be only two members on the council from this year – Mike Chisum and Fitzthum.
Before their farewells, council members Fitzthum and Chisum thanked the three for their service.
“Thank you, Sarah, David and Pat,” Chisum said. “You will be missed.
Fitzthum thanked them for all their hard work and for being willing to spend so much time away from their families. Working with those three, Fitzthum said, often led to a candid – and sometimes spirited – dialogue but all were dedicated to serving Sartell, even when they disagreed.
“You’re going to be missed,” he said.
Peterson thanked all of the citizens of Sartell and his family – wife Kristina and children Devin and Lauren – for their support.
Lynch, who served two four-year terms, thanked Nicoll for her deep commitment for four years and also thanked Peterson.
“We didn’t always agree,” he said to Peterson, “but I thank you for your service to the city and your service to our country.” Lynch was referring to Peterson’s long-time service in the Minnesota National Guard, including two tours of duty – Iraq and Afghanistan.
In her emotional farewell, Nicoll spoke of a long list of accomplishments achieved during her time as council member and mayor, accomplishments made possible by not only the council but by a city staff that is “the most professional I’ve ever witnessed.”
“Mary, we made a great team,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion, referring to Mary Degiovanni, long-time city administrator/financial director.
She also thanked Peterson and Lynch for their “camaraderie and leadership,” even, she added, in times of disagreements.
Among the accomplishments for Sartell, Nicoll mentioned many things, including the following: the building of a community center, park improvements, road reconstruction and east side improvements, construction of more roundabouts, the city’s work with Benton County on redoing CR 29, formation of a convention and visitors’ bureau, the hiring of more personnel, completion of a comprehensive city plan, more single-family home construction and many other construction projects and the long study and planning for the public-safety facility (fire and police departments) to be constructed next year. Those achievements were all done using a relatively flat tax rate, Nicoll noted, the lowest of the five area cities.
“And thanks to the citizens for trusting me in this role, said Nicoll, quavering with brimming emotion. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve you.”
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.