Falls Park on the Big Sioux River

River Greenway Sioux Falls, photo by Elisha Page, Argus Leader

Proven Leadership.

I started my first full time radio job in May of 1971 when I moved to Sioux Falls from Sioux City. 

Three years and five days later I was elected Mayor. I was 27 and for about a year I was the youngest Mayor of a City over 50,000 in the country. 

How did that happen?  It’s a long story. I can tell you numerous national articles were written. My story is a Chapter in a book on Politics. 

Here are the basics: On the national scene there was unrest. The Vietnam War was winding down but there was still plenty of anger about it; the Roe v Wade decision affecting a women’s right to choose had happened a year earlier, the repercussions from that were just beginning to be felt; and finally Watergate was unfolding and all the lies that went with it. 

At the local level, Urban Renewal was not working. Downtown was almost empty. Citizens were upset about who got liquor licenses; City employees thought they were being treated unfairly; the perception and reality was City Hall was a closed shop. Citizen access was severely limited. 

My campaign focused on “Opening the Doors” at City Hall, treating employees fairly, and doing what we could to save downtown. 

I defeated a long time resident who was a favorite of the business community and his real estate friends. There are many stories about the election. I got into the run-off by only two votes. 

I didn’t label myself as a “Change Agent,” but I was.  Night meetings. Cable TV coverage of those meetings, inviting the media into the Friday morning “Pre-Commission Meetings.’  All these are now Standard Operating Procedure in local governments around the country. But at the time my changes were considered revolutionary. 

I’m proud of my time as Mayor. As a community we got a lot done. Some of it not very exciting; a new wastewater treatment plant, a new mass transit system, improved funding of the city pension system, better treatment of City Employees and better citizen access to their government. 

The biggest accomplishment of my tenure was the creation of the Big Sioux River Greenway. The concept had languished for years, never getting the votes needed to make it happen. My election changed that.  Probably the most visible accomplishment of my tenure and maybe my life.  

I could go on, but I think you get the drift. I’m not afraid of big challenges and I know how to get things done. 

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