Bender ready for new role
Dan Bender is no stranger to City Hall, but Red Wing's new mayor said he views this role as a different one.
"It's going to be a different kind of involvement, it already has been," Bender said.
Bender was sworn in as mayor Monday night after winning a special election for the spot earlier this month.
His return to City Hall was somewhat of a surprise, even to him.
He had stepped off the City Council after he completed his term last December and said he was going to look for other ways to get involved in the community.
"I had not considered anything like that," Bender said of the mayor's spot.
But when the position unexpectedly opened up after former Mayor Dennis Egan resigned, he started thinking about running.
"I really had missed the involvement in things around the city," Bender said. "I think I missed it more than I thought I would."
Bender said he was surprised by the number of candidates for the position, expecting two or three rather than the six that filed. He said it caused him to do some extra campaigning, such as producing brochures and delivering them to every home in the city, but that ended up being a good thing.
"It did get me out where I could talk to people," he said.
The campaigning also helped him realize the key issues for Red Wing residents, he said. He said he knew the future of Mississippi National Golf Links was a major topic, but learned more about the economic impacts of the course's closure and how many people, golfers and non-golfers, agreed the community needs a public golf course.
He said MNGL is a big issue on the horizon, as is economic development, especially downtown.
That public involvement was just the start of Bender's new role. Bender said the mayor interacts more with the public and groups outside city government than City Council members generally do.
"I am excited about that change," he said. "It will be something new and different."
Bender said he will hold office hours to make sure he is accessible to people. He will start with 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the Mondays of City Council meetings.
He said "it might seem a little old-fashioned," but he prefers meeting and talking with people face-to-face and said others in the community might like that better too.
"I'm giving myself and everybody else an opportunity to do that," he said.
Bender said one of his key jobs also will be to represent and advocate for the city.
"There are lots of people doing that, but I want to be one of the main ones out there," he said.
Speaking in public and taking a leadership role does not necessarily come naturally to Bender, he said. But he believes in his cause and said once he gets going, it is not hard.
"It turns out it's not difficult once you get out and do it," Bender said.
One major mayoral responsibility is board and commission appointments, and Bender said he has already started looking for people to fill open slots and compiling lists of potential members.
Many of the groups have had vacancies for a while, and Bender said he aims to fill them soon.
He said there seem to be plenty of willing people in the community.
"We're going to get those positions filled," he said. "I don't foresee it as a problem right now."
Commission and board members likely will see Bender at their meetings soon, as he said he hopes to visit them all in the next few months to better understand their needs and concerns.
Bender said the summer ahead will be a busy one.
"And that's good," he said. "I'm looking forward to helping people where I can."