LE council member steps down

At the June 18 Lake Elmo city council meeting, Mayor Mike Pearson made an unexpected announcement: seven-year council member Nicole Park would be resigning from her position. Although Park was not able to attend the meeting, Pearson read aloud a brief email explaining her reasoning.

“I need to share that my last meeting as a Council Member will be on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013,” Park wrote. “It was a difficult decision to end my term early, but with much thought, over this past year, I decided that it is the best decision for myself and for my family.”

In a later interview, Park said she wanted to spend more “quality time” with her two sons, who are 12 and 14.

“I have been thinking about stepping down for close to a year now, and right now just felt like the right time,” she explained. “I think spending quality time with your kids at all ages is important.”

Park’s term was set to expire in January 2015.

Pearson, who has served with Park for almost three years, said he would miss her positive outlook, a personality trait noted by other city officials as well.

“I, for one, will miss Nicole. I understand she has things to attend to, mainly her family,” Pearson said. “I’ll miss her personality and ability to always see the upside of things. She had the willingness to throw ideas out there to get a conversation going.”

City administrator Dean Zuleger, like Pearson, said that Park brought an optimistic attitude to the council.

“She’s always had hope for a better Lake Elmo,” Zuleger said. “She always saw the best for community and people of Lake Elmo, and put her hope in the staff. She is a positive and encouraging spirit, and very passionate about the city.”

And Park had kind words for Zuleger as well. She said that one of her proudest accomplishments on the council, in addition to ordinances designed to extend sewer and water connection to the Old Village area in coming years, was the council’s decision to hire Zuleger last year.

“He is so smart and has the perfect personality and strong work ethic for Lake Elmo. Dean is exactly what Lake Elmo needs in many ways, and he’s accomplished amazing things in just one year.

“I’m excited to see what else Dean will help our city get done,” she added.

‘Can’t always please everyone’

While she is known for her optimistic spirit, at times, a positive outlook can be difficult to maintain, Park said.

“The toughest challenge of being a city servant is that you can’t always please everyone,” she explained. “The councils that I’ve been a part of have always tried to find a fair compromise and have kept the interests of all citizens at the forefront.”

Most recently, Lake Elmo’s city council has come under fire for its decision to extend hours for water skiing and jet skiing on Demontreville, Olson and Jane lakes. The council chambers were filled to capacity during multiple meetings this spring as residents and council members went head-to-head over the new wake-creating regulations.

Park helped make another tough decision in 2012, when the council decided to sever ties with the Washington County library system. The county cut funding to the Lake Elmo branch library due to declining patronage, so rather than lose a public library altogether, the council established a city-run facility. Today, the library has 60 volunteers and 8,000 books, most of which were donated.

While making tough decisions such as these can be daunting, Park says that whoever is chosen to fill out the remainder of her term on the city council will find a strong support system.

“Our current mayor, Mike Pearson, and council members Anne Smith, Justin Bloyer and Wally Nelson are all brilliant people. They ... take their job as city servants very seriously, and I hope that my replacement will do the same. I have every confidence in them, our administrator, Dean, and our capable staff to care for this special town of Lake Elmo.”

The city council interviewed four candidates for the vacant seat before the July 16 council meeting.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7814.

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