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St. Paul Park council commends outgoing mayor

St. Paul Park officials honored outgoing Mayor John Hunziker at the final City Council meeting of the year on Monday. Keith Franke, who defeated Hunziker last month, will assume the seat in January.

Officials in St. Paul Park honored outgoing Mayor John Hunziker on Monday night, recognizing the city's longtime leader for his nearly two decades on the city council.

Unsuccessful in his bid for re-election in November, Hunziker's fellow council members and city staff praised him during his final meeting as St. Paul Park's top elected official, calling him a man with "a commitment to fairness and equality."

First elected to to the St. Paul Park City Council in 1985, Hunziker was then elected to three, two-year mayoral terms, serving from 1986 through 1991. He returned from political retirement to win election again in 2003, serving as the city's mayor until his defeat to local businessman Keith Franke last month.

In 16 years in office, Hunziker "helped forge the future of St. Paul Park," City Administrator Kevin Walsh said as part of a resolution read at Monday's meeting.

The retired cabinet maker helped lead efforts to revitalize the city's Broadway Avenue business district, spearheaded a move to reform the city's street and utility improvement assessment procedures that made it more property-owner friendly and helped lay out long-term plans for growth in the city.

"I think the citizens of St. Paul Park are grateful -- as are we -- that we had you on our side all these years," said council member Jeff Swenson.

While each council member publicly thanked the outgoing mayor, Hunziker himself had little to say about his time in office.

"We've got a pretty good operating city," he said during a short statement. "And I hope it stays that way."