Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey to seek re-electionMyron Bailey’s four years as Cottage Grove’s mayor haven’t always been easy, he says – a slowly-recovering economy, sometimes-fractious Cottage Grove City Council and bitter fight over the construction of a new city hall have seen to that.
Myron Bailey’s four years as Cottage Grove’s mayor haven’t always been easy, he says – a slowly-recovering economy, sometimes-fractious Cottage Grove City Council and bitter fight over the construction of a new city hall have seen to that.
But, the Cottage Grove native says, he’s not finished yet.
First elected to the City Council in 2004, Bailey, 48, said recently he plans to seek a second mayoral term this fall with hopes to continue work on goals like adding more jobs, retail and restaurants to the city’s commercial sector and building Cottage Grove’s first community center.
No other potential mayoral candidates have publicly announced their interest in opposing Bailey. Council member Derrick Lehrke had said he was considering challenging Bailey, but Lehrke opted to run for the Minnesota House.
Council member Jen Peterson is the only candidate who has stated publicly that she will seek a council seat in the fall. Council member Justin Olsen’s term also ends this year; he said he hasn’t decided whether to run for re-election.
Bailey, a 1982 Park High School graduate, is arguably Cottage Grove’s biggest booster. A regional manager for electronics retailer Radio Shack, Bailey sells the city to, it seems, everyone he meets, whether retail developers, business leaders or residents.
"It means a lot to me,” Bailey said of being Cottage Grove’s mayor. “I'm proud of it – I’m extremely proud of it, obviously. I love this community and I want to do the best for this community.”
Defends new city hall
Despite that, Bailey has come under withering criticism from some at times, namely for his role in leading the push to build the new, $16 million city hall and public safety facility that is scheduled to be completed shortly before Election Day.
Opponents of the project crowded Cottage Grove City Hall for public meetings on the plans and angrily demanded a referendum on the most expensive municipal building project in city history. They launched a website and remained critical of Bailey throughout the process.
Most council members, led by Bailey, rebuffed them, however, saying the project would not raise taxes and asserting the new building was badly needed to replace the city’s out-of-date public safety facilities.
Bailey forcefully defends the decision to construct the building, saying it was “absolutely” the right thing to do, even though he says city officials could have communicated better the need for the project to residents early in the process.
"I think in the long run, when they do go in and take a look at the place, (residents will) be proud,” he said. “It’s not extravagant, it's not a Taj Mahal, but it’s a good, functional building that will be around long after I’m gone.”
He added: “In the future, there will be mayors [and] council members that say: ‘Thank God they had the foresight in 2011, 2012 to do what they did.’”
City moving ‘in right direction’
Apart from the new city hall rising rapidly on Ravine Parkway, other signs of the city’s priorities during Bailey’s four years as mayor are slowly beginning to appear.
Redevelopment work was set to begin last week on the long-vacant former Home Depot building on East Point Douglas Road, where an LA Fitness, Petco and Goodwill will soon replace the empty home improvement retail space.
Another of the city’s high-priority sites for commercial redevelopment is also seeing progress – Walmart representatives entered into a purchase agreement with the owner of the Cottage View Drive-In and submitted plans to build a Supercenter store on a part of the theater’s property near Highway 61 and Keats Avenue.
Bailey said the progress hasn’t come as quickly as he had hoped. But it is a sign that the city’s more aggressive approach to seeking commercial development – which has included hiring an economic development director and attending an annual retail developer’s conference – is starting to pay off.
“We’ve gotten a lot done,” he said. “I've been on the council for eight years, four as mayor. I think we've moved the city in the right direction and will continue to.”