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Steve Wilson is happy with the work he's done

As December winds to an end, so does the term of city council member Steve Wilson. After six years on the council, Wilson sat at the council table one last time Monday night.

The third-place finisher in the 2004 election, Wilson was appointed to council to fill a seat vacated when then-council member Kevan Soderberg assumed the mayor's post. He sought re-election in 2006 and was successful in his bid, but in 2010 he finished third again and lost his seat to Jason Bartholomay.

With six years of public service under his belt, Wilson is focusing on the opportunities that wait in his future. He shared a few of those thoughts with us this week.

Why did you seek a life in public office in the first place?

It's in my blood. I've really grown up with a passion for serving and since I became introduced to government and how government works, and then learned more though high school and even college ... being involved in government not only has always been interesting to me but it's a way that I've really felt like I could serve others. And so, if it hadn't been the council realm, and my wife knows this probably even better than I do, I seek out ways to serve and at times I over-commit myself. While my council term may be ending, I'm probably going to look for something else to take up my Mondays.... My son's going to move on to Boy Scouts so that certainly offers me something to do with my Mondays.

Compare when you first got into office versus now, today. Was your time as a council member everything that you thought it would be?

No, I would say it has been far more exciting and at the same time, more challenging than I would have anticipated. I think from an outsider perspective, it might seem, honestly ... most people don't pay a whole lot of attention to what the council does unless it affects their house, their trees, their road. What makes it challenging is that very frequently it can become emotional, not only from the perspective of making the right decision, but from also making a consistent decision. A lot of times you can know that you made the right decision, and sometimes you're not going to know for a year or two down the road. Flagstaff might be a good example of that.

I was going to add the senior center. If I could change one vote on the city council, it would have been my vote against the senior center. I voted against it not because of how we decide to convert the old city hall, but I voted against it because we didn't have a financial plan in place for it. That has been, I think, just a phenomenal success. The volunteer involvement, the contributions. It has just evolved into a neat project.

Farmington has gone through a lot of change while you've been in office. You kind talked about the choices that you've made. Do you have any kind of a rule of thumb that you live by in making your decisions?

A rule of thumb? You know, I hate to get too Christian on you, but I try to say a prayer before each meeting that the decisions I'm going to make are going to be not selfish ones but ones that are going to be in the best interest of the community. I think I kind of gauge it on that, you know, is it going to be good for Farmington or is it more likely to have an adverse impact?

In your opinion, what has been the number one challenge the city of Farmington has faced in recent years?

You know, I think it would be easy to say the budget, and that would almost be a predictable answer. I couldn't even think of a second one. It's been challenging just from the decrease in the revenues coming in and certainly the down economy and knowing folks are impacted by the down economy and knowing how that's impacting them and their families.

What is one of the things you're most proud of as a council member?

You know, it would be hard not to be proud of the high school, despite the challenges that it took to get there. I look back and think fondly, really, of all the staff I've had the ability to work with, even the relationships that have been a little more fractured at times, you know, Peter (Herlofsky) and other administrators that we've had to work with. Just a lot of really good people work for the city and that's one thing I've really found has been a perspective shift for me. I think the outside resident doesn't fully appreciate the city employees, what the type of work they're doing with the tax dollars, whether it's somebody working at city hall or our police and fire department. Just many good people from top to bottom. It's also kind of cool to see some of the expansion things, certainly the expansion of 195th street to Highway 3, I'm very pleased about. We've done a lot of road projects, Flagstaff is another one. Those would just kind of jump out at me.

Do you think that you'll seek office as a council member again some day?

Boy that feels like a loaded question. Clearly, I still have interest in the city of Farmington and I don't hold any grudges for the way the election turned out. I can say this absolutely - I will be involved in the community in one way or another. I was considering, for a time this year, running for the school board. It was something of a tough decision mid-summer. Do I run for the school board or do I consider another term on the council? Certainly with two kids in the school right now and a third coming next year, I certainly have a lot of passion for how our schools are going so I could certainly see that as something in my future. I think the timing would have to be right for me to want to look at the council again. I feel good about the time I served, but yet, I think that's what keeps government going - having new ideas, new perspectives. I think that's healthy for a community. I'm not going to throw anything off the table, but school board would be of interest to me at some point in time.

So what are you going to do with all of your extra time?

It will certainly make the home life a little more in balance, so I know my wife is going to appreciate that. I know that I will be able to dedicate more of my time to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts so I'm really looking forward to that. It might give me a little more time to help out organizations like 360 Communities or even Warrior to Citizen. The one thing that's really nice that you don't want to lose is that you build up so many great connections.... I would hate to just lose them. I'm not going to sulk in a chair and wonder why I didn't win, I look at it as an opportunity to get involved in all sorts of things I wasn't able to do before.

Do you have any final thoughts about your time as a council member?

I genuinely enjoyed it. I really did. Even when the decisions were gut-wrenching ... it's truly a humbling experience to know that you're up there representing 18- to 20,000 people and oftentimes you're having a direct impact on their taxes, their livelihood, where they shop, what roads they drive down. It's really been an honor. It really has been.

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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