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'Now, go make it happen'
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Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

For mayor-elect Myron Bailey, and newly elected city council members Justin Olsen and Jen Peterson, the easy part is over -- they're in.

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Voters delivered the trio to office last Tuesday in an election that candidates had said beforehand would shape the future of Cottage Grove. And now the hard work begins for Bailey, Olsen and Peterson, with a failing national economy, still-sluggish housing market and thin city budget waiting for them in January.

So what's new?

The sitting council has been staring those problems down for the past few years. But the new group, made up of Bailey, who is replacing outgoing mayor Sandy Shiely, Olsen, Peterson and council members Mark Grossklaus and Pat Rice, will be "a more progressive council," the mayor-elect said last week, a sentiment both Peterson and Olsen agreed with.

"You're going to find a much more engaged, and engaging, council," Olsen said. Later, he said the council's new configuration will bring "a flexibility of thought that enables somebody to say, 'Yeah, that's a better idea.'"

The feeling from Tuesday's winners was that voters were telling them to stop just talking and start doing.

"People are tired of the same-old, same-old," Bailey said of the message he took from last week's results. "They aren't happy for us to say we want business, but then when the opportunity is afforded for them to move in here, we're throwing up roadblocks. They aren't happy for us to talk about a community center but do nothing to move forward."

The community center was a focus of Peterson's campaign, and the need for one is something all three agree on.

When Peterson began to push for a Cottage Grove community center, "it seemed like something that would be coming sooner than later," she said. "But with the change in the economy it (has become), 'well, let's not put off planning it.'"

Considering current economic conditions, Peterson said, she'd be happy if in four years time the city had pieced together a plan for the long-talked about community center, including how the building would be funded.

The planning process is likely a two-year undertaking, anyway, Bailey said, economy aside.

"I think the two new members of the council are in agreement with me on this," Bailey said. "I would like, after the first of the year, (to) start putting together that core group for the community center discussion. Because I do believe it will take some time before this thing can get done," both because of the economy and because it will take time to figure out what people want in a center.

Bailey, Peterson and Olsen agreed last week that after Tuesday, the dynamic of the city council has changed.

Peterson said while campaigning she ran into a real desire from residents for a change in the city council's makeup.

"People were hungry for something new," she said.

They were getting it either way, though, with two sitting council members (Bailey and Fred Luden) running for mayor and five new faces vying for the pair of open council seats.

What voters will get in January is a new mayor and two new council members who say their thought processes are generally in sync.

"I don't think you're going to see us vote as a group on everything, I'd be amazed if we did," Olsen said. "We have common goals and objectives ... big picture, we all have a similar vision."

It's a vision that will include an altered push for new commercial growth in Cottage Grove, a focus of Bailey's campaign as well as his four years on council. Had the current council been in place last summer, the votes would have been there to move up the schedule for Langdon development and to advance a Gold's Gym development proposal. In its current incarnation, Bailey was the lone vote to alter the comprehensive plan to accommodate the Gold's Gym plan.

With the council's new make-up, Bailey said "it's an invitation to say, 'come on, check out Cottage Grove again.'"

Cottage Grove voters gave the OK to the vision espoused by Bailey, Olsen and Peterson.

The directive from residents, Bailey said, is clear if not easy: "Now go make it happen."

Jon Avise can be reached at javise@swcbulletin.com.

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