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Mayor Norton: Let’s use what we’ve learned to thrive

In her annual State of the City Address, Rochester's mayor puts an emphasis on collaboration with other community entities as the city steers toward recovery efforts.

Kim Norton, Rochester Mayor
Kim Norton

Collaborative efforts that started and grew in response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic will be a critical part of Rochester recovery efforts.

That was the message from Rochester Mayor Kim Norton during her State of the City Address given Friday morning.

“It will take continued partnerships, collaborations and cooperation from us all, and more, to take Rochester out of the pandemic-induced recession and into the bright future that we are all looking for,” she said in the online address that followed comments from several local government, business and community leaders.

She said communitywide response has shown what is possible when various forces, including city staff, join in collaborative efforts to address a variety of needs.

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“Let’s use what we’ve learned to thrive,” she added.

Norton put an emphasis on moving forward and building on past efforts, but also warned against looking back for a road map to recovery.

“Let’s not picture our future by looking in our rearview mirror at the past, but instead with excitement and vision for what’s ahead,” she said, pointing to new ideas that have emerged from the pandemic.

She said outdoor venues created in response to dining restrictions could increase future business opportunities and new ways of doing business might see increased positive results during recovery efforts.

“We are all anxious to fully reopen our economy, and I think we must expect things to be different as we come out of the pandemic,” she said, pointing to anticipated empty businesses and other spaces that could be considered as opportunities, rather than losses.

“It’s my hope that we can be bold and brave and look for opportunities,” she said.

ALSO READ: What's on the other side of the pandemic for DMC? Five-year update of economic development plan takes into consideration needs related to COVID-19 challenges, and officials eye potential benefits.
She did point to lessons learned, particularly in how the city communicates amid changes, such as downtown construction that hampered some businesses as the pandemic started during the summer.

She vowed to improve.

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“We heard you,” she said. “We listened. We will do better moving ahead.”

In addition to working toward recovery as the city’s emergency operations center continues to do work in response to the pandemic, Norton said the city will focus on addressing affordable housing, building the local workforce, embracing sustainability efforts and addressing equity concerns.

She said she expects the efforts of the Rochester City Council, which has four new members, and the new city administrator, Alison Zelms, will help provide paths toward a variety of improvements in response to community needs and desires.

“Our services are by you and for you, and we will strive to meet your expectations,” she said.

Norton added that successfully meeting goals will also require community participation and input moving forward.

“We will get the environment, community and government we create,” she said.

Adding to that message were the comments that preceded her address. Participants were Rochester City Council President Brooke Carlson, Rochester School Board Chairwoman Jean Marvin, Olmsted County Board Chairwoman Stephanie Podulke, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chairwoman Lizzy Haywood, Rochester Area Economic Development Interim President John Wade, Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency Executive Director Patrick Seeb, and Diversity Council Executive Director Dee Sabol.

“It sends such an important message to our community: We are better when we work together,” Marvin said of the addition of different groups to the annual mayoral address

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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