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'Farmington Fred' hits the streets

Cable coordinator Tim Klausler leads a staff who produce YouTube videos for Farmington and Rosemount that communicate information about the city, parks and recreation and public safety. Recently, Klausler has been filmed as the “Farmington Fred” character who communicates information about city ordinances in a funny, neighborly way. Kara Hildreth / contributor1 / 3
The City of Farmington works in partnership with the cable commission to produce videos that can be distributed on the city’s social media, website and now YouTube. Videos on city ordinances have opened dialog between residents and the city and serve as a way to give information on new rules or laws. Kara Hildreth / Contributor2 / 3
In the control room behind the chamber in Farmington City Hall, Tim Klausler or his staff make sure public meetings are filmed. “Most cities feel it is important to be transparent so you can watch the meetings,” he said, adding videos are not the legal record but meeting minutes serve as legal record. Kara Hildreth / Contributor3 / 3

You may have seen the character "Farmington Fred" on a video circulated from the City of Farmington's social media and YouTube.

Tim Klausler, coordinator with Apple Valley, Farmington and Rosemount Cable Commission, plays Fred, who wants to inform residents about city ordinances. The message has a public service tone but is delivered with a flair for the funny, nerdy side of city government.

Klausler wants to make sure each city's stories and information are told to residents. He worked for Lakeville and produced videos for this large southern Dakota County suburb for years.

"We are changing the culture here and building relationships with city staff who trust us and like what we do and the staff is coming directly to us," Klausler said.

As a former staff member at KSTP-TV news station, Klausler worked for five years at Eden Prairie High School in the TV studio. He taught youth about video and TV news production and was able to capture school games, choirs and concerts on video.

Apple Valley, Farmington and Rosemount Cable Commission is responsible for making sure that council and planning meetings are captured on digital video files that are rebroadcast on the city's website and cable channels. In recent years, the staff created YouTube videos about each city.

Klausler began his tenure in January 2017.

"When I came in, there were obvious changes (that) needed to be done and our videos needed to be web friendly and we decided to produce videos about communicating about code enforcement or laws," Klausler said.

"One of the first things we did was update the way we do meetings with graphics and we wanted to make it more visually appealing," he said.

The focus, he said, should be creating videos that residents want to watch but also get information that is beneficial to them.

Playing Farmington Fred has been fun, Klausler said.

"We have done videos on summer ordinances with 'water your yard,' 'garbage in the driveway' and 'abandoned cars,'" he said.

Even though the cable commission staff travels from city to city, Harry Kline is usually the Farmington video producer and Doug Bondeson usually helps produce the meeting video footage for the City of Rosemount.

"Recently, we have come up with three branded government channels because there was no sense to sharing government channels," Klausler said.

Besides posting videos on city websites and social media platforms, the City of Farmington places videos on YouTube. Rosemount has links to its videos on Vimeo to reach residents who prefer to watch city government in action via TV or tablet.

"Farmington will focus on short videos like the 'Fred' videos to continue to educate residents, and each department has some ideas such as the police department is looking at some public service announcement videos," said Brenda Wendlandt, human resources director for the City of Farmington.

"The videos on ordinances have opened dialog between the residents and the city. Through this dialog, we are able to answer questions and provide additional information to residents," she added.

They developed the Farmington Fred character and a concept to help residents understand the code enforcement progress and promote self-correction, according to Adam Keinberger, Farmington's community development director.

"It is an awareness campaign to take a lighthearted look at some of the things we receive the most calls on from the residents and we can cite city ordinances," Kienberger said.

The video approach is a new way to reach younger residents who prefer online streaming or YouTube TV to traditional communication efforts.

The video character "Farmington Fred" may be a recurring character in future videos because he is funny and seems neighborly.

"This is new for the city and I think they are embracing it and are willing to let it grow," Klausler said, adding "We are building something and relationships in the area are a crucial part to make this happen and it builds upon itself."