When Mike Slavik was first elected to the Hastings City Council in 2006, his parents breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, that political science degree he'd earned at St. John's University was going to be used.
Well, now Slavik is using that degree full time. He was sworn last week in as the new Dakota County Commissioner for District 1.
Slavik replaces Joe Harris as commissioner in District 1, which includes Farmington, Castle Rock, Empire, Eureka, Hampton, Vermillion and Coates, as well as Hastings and several more townships. Harris served in his role as county commissioner for more than 30 years before retiring at the end of 2012.
A 1997 graduate of Hastings High School, Slavik attended St. John's University, where he earned a political science degree in public policy. He returned to Hastings, where he and his wife, Maria, now live. Slavik has been in real estate for a number of years, and he is also the owner of a laundromat in Blue Earth.
He first ran for the Hastings City Council in 2006. He was reelected in 2010, but stepped down last year when he was elected county commissioner.
"I have a real passion for serving my community," he said.
Slavik has also held several positions on committees at his church. He was part of the group that helped to bring a YMCA to Hastings. And, for a number of years, he's been involved in the Hastings High School Alumni Association.
But now he's broadening his horizons. He's not only serving his hometown, but the communities around it. And he's really looking forward to it.
Slavik's decision to run for county commissioner came not long after Harris announced his retirement from the county board. He was approached by several of his colleagues at the city of Hastings, who suggested Slavik would be a good candidate for the job.
Preparation for his new position actually started on election night, he said. When incoming results suggested he was winning, Slavik was invited to participate in the county board's 2013 budget discussions.
From there, his weeks have been filled with preparation for the new role. Slavik has been to meetings at every township and city in his district since he was elected.
"A lot of my time has been spent in introductions, and seeing what the hot button issues are in each community," he said. "And I'm trying to let them know I'm present. I plan on being present as a commissioner. I don't want to be a commissioner no one ever sees."
That's a lesson Slavik learned from Harris. The two have had several conversations since the election, and Harris stressed the importance of being out around the district as much as possible. Slavik has taken that to heart, too. By the looks of his schedule so far, he's already planning on putting on about 700 miles in January, between training sessions and visiting municipalities within District 1.
"It's a lot to take on, but I want to visit every city and township on a very regular basis, at least a couple of times a year," he said.
He plans on stepping back from his job as a realtor.
A good chunk of his time since elections has been spent just getting to know about Dakota County and the services offered through the county. He's attended every board of commissioners meeting, been to several work sessions, and had tours of the county's facilities. He's gone through some training sessions at the county level, but has another one through the Association of Minnesota Counties that will be coming up later in January.
"I'm going to be hitting the ground running," he said.