Larson gets comfortable in mayor's chair
Todd Larson had a couple of months to get used to the idea of becoming Farmington's new mayor, but he admits to being a little nervous before Monday's city council meeting.
Larson spent the hours before taking his oath of office in an ice arena in Lakeville, at his daughter's hockey practice. Though he was watching the practice, a little bit of nervousness started to set in, especially when he started getting phone calls from friends and family wishing him luck.
But then practice ended, he arrived at Farmington City Hall and all the anxiety faded. Finally, after two months of mental preparation and with family and friends in the audience, it was time to be sworn in.
Farmington city administrator Peter Herlofsky administered the oath of office to Larson, then did the same for new council members Julie May and Terry Donnelly. Then with the new Farmington City Council in office, Larson took over his first meeting.
Larson served on the Farmington planning commission for 13 years, but his was an appointed post and the planning commission is an advisory group to the city council. Before Monday Larson had never held an elected position in the community.
That is not to say he was not ready. He spent a lot of time over the past couple months getting ready. He said he read through his agendas "about 15 times" to make sure he understood the issues facing the city. He has been to workshops and has made a point to get out to meet business owners he did not know. He watched archived council meetings, and viewed meetings from other communities just to get a feel for how things are done.
"I figured, 'why not do some homework?'" he said.
Larson also learned a great deal from outgoing mayor Kevan Soderberg. Over the past few months, Larson accompanied Soderberg to functions where he met the mayors of surrounding communities, and to the Dakota Communications Center, the county's central dispatch center.
"That really helped me," he said. "I can't thank (Soderberg) enough. He didn't have to do that."
Larson is reluctant to list too many personal goals for the city of Farmington. He wants to meet with the council first, and have them identify priorities for the coming years. He has tossed around some ideas with Herlofsky, and has gotten a good sense of where city staff see things headed.
"I have certain goals in my head," he said. "I definitely have a vision for the future. How we get there is going to be a lot of hard work, though."
One idea he has is to reach out to residents through the Internet for feedback. It is too early to say if or how the project would work, but Larson envisions posting agendas on the city's web site and allowing residents post comments on the topics before the council.
Larson also recognizes that the job will not always be easy, especially when it comes to balancing the city's budget in these tough economic times.
Larson and his wife, Lena, have two daughters, Miranda, 13, and Brooke, 10. Though Lena has always supported him in his decisions, the new mayor said she was a little apprehensive about the new aspect to their relationship, too.
Lena is employed by the city of Farmington, as its municipal services coordinator. That means that, in a roundabout way, her husband is her boss. But not to worry, Larson said.
"She's also my biggest supporter, no matter what I do," he said. "The kids think it's kind of cool, too."
Getting used to being addressed as "Mr. Mayor" or "Mayor-Elect" or even "Mayor" is a little different, though. Not long after being elected, Larson was asked to speak at a Farmington Lions meeting. Afterward, one member addressed him as "Mr. Mayor-Elect Larson," and it threw him off a bit.
"I said, 'Just call me Todd,' and he said, 'I can do that?' I said, 'Please,'" Larson said. "I'm really having a hard time not having a first name anymore."
Call him "Mayor," call him "Todd," call him "Mr. Larson," it doesn't really matter -- his only concern is that residents call him when there is a matter they want to address.
"I'm trying to get my name and face out there, so if people have any questions, they won't hesitate to call me," he said.
In his spare time, Larson coaches his daughter's hockey and soccer teams. Last summer, he earned the title of Best Escort when Miranda participated in the pre-teen division of the National American Miss Pageant.
"Someone told me I should wear my crown last night," Larson joked Tuesday. "I thought that seemed like a bit much."