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Composition of EDA will change next year

The city of Farmington will be looking for residents to fill vacancies on a reformed Economic Development Authority in a couple of months. Just how many seats, though, is still up for discussion.

Farmington EDA members agree they want to change the composition of the board by 2013. Currently, the EDA is made up of the five Farmington City Council members and two ex-officio members who can share insight and opinion, but do not have a vote.

Ex-officio member Jeri Jolley expressed some confusion, and frustration, with her role Monday. She said she always felt like she was "a meeting behind" the rest of the board because they are council members and are up to speed on most activity in the community. Jolley said she did not understand what her role was on the EDA. When she asked for an interpretation of her role in the past, she said, she was told she could make the role whatever she wanted to make it.

"That's not very descriptive to me," she said. "This role is very vague. Very, very vague. I'm not getting my arms around it at all. I feel like a token. You want to say you have a resident on the board. You want to say you have a business person on the board."

That setup will likely change next year. EDA members are considering removing three council members from the board -- state law requires two council members sit on an EDA -- and adding one to three more members from the public.

It's a toss-up as to whether the new EDA will have five or seven members. On Monday, members discussed the pros and cons of each. City administrator David McKnight and city planner Lee Smick, who participate in the EDA meetings, each prefer the five-member arrangement, as do council members Julie May and Terry Donnelly. However, other members preferred a seven-member board.

"The more voices, more experience, to me is better," said council member Jason Bartholomay.

Ex-officio member Doug Bonar suggested a membership similar to one he had seen in Faribault. There, they have two council members, one planning commission member, one member from the business community and three at-large members. That arrangement appealed to other EDA members.

"I like the philosophy because you get the diversity of opinion," Jolley said.

After considering the possibility of appointing a member of the Farmington Business Association to the board, the EDA asked staff to check with city attorney Joel Jamnik to see if business owners who are not residents of the community can be appointed to the board.

Once the board decides how many members it would like to have on the EDA, the commission will have to have a public hearing to inform residents of any potential changes. The new board would take effect in 2013, and council membership to the EDA would be chosen at the annual organizational meeting in January.

On Jolley's suggestion, an orientation system of some sort will be developed to help the new EDA members understand their role on the board and in the city of Farmington.

"The purpose of the EDA should be identified from the get-go," she said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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