The Mayor of Annandale, MN will step down after 6 years as mayor and 19 years of public service.

You may be wondering, what does this have to do with Contractors Cloud? It just so happens that this very mayor is also our Founder and CEO!

Dwight "Dewey" GunnarsonYes, that’s right, Dwight “Dewey” Gunnarson, the same man that has been working arduously for the past 10 years developing, coding and running a software business, has been also serving as the Mayor of Annandale for the past six years. His term officially expired on December 31, 2020.

Check out the city’s Wikipedia page to see his name before it gets updated next month. Very cool!

Being a mayor in a small town is certainly not the same as a large city, with all the prestige, glamour, and vast resources of large urban sprawl. But it still carries a lot of responsibility and requires a lot of time, dedication, patience, and hard work.

Here’s a quick look at his career:

  • Licensed Civil Engineer #44318 since 2006
  • Annandale Planning Commission for 8-years and served as chairperson for last two years
  • Elected to Annandale City Council in 2010
  • Elected and current Mayor since 2014
  • Annandale, Maple Lake, Howard Lake Wastewater Commission board member since 2012
  • Annandale Lion’s Club member for over 17 years and served as president in 2007 and was district level zone chair for 3 years.
  • 4th of July Parade Chair since 2012

We would like to salute the work of Mayor Gunnarson and share his farewell (in his own words) and final thoughts as we look back on all of the accomplishments during his nearly two-decade span of public service.

I’m proud of what the City of Annandale has accomplished over the past 19-years. I’m especially proud of the fact that we’ve proven this small town can do big things.

After 19-years, I’ll be retiring from city service and will not be seeking re-election as Mayor of Annandale. I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do and will be leaving the City of Annandale in a tremendously strong position with massive potential.

Wikipedia listing for Annandale, MNWhat We’ve Accomplished

Over the past years as your Mayor, we’ve accomplished a lot for the City of Annandale. Here are a few highlights:

  • Secured a new broadband option (Midco). You can read more about it here.
  • Improved our parks, trails, and invested in our downtown project with negotiated windfalls from the Aurora Solar Project
  • Improved our internal processes and became more efficient which allowed us to save money and increase our enterprise revenues (sewer, water, refuse)
  • Consistently improved Annandale’s infrastructure
  • Created a positive environment for our businesses to grow
  • Continued our unwavering support for our police, fire, and safety departments
  • Secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and low-interest loans for our projects and businesses
  • Revitalized our Downtown (Oak Ave)
  • And much more

When it comes to politics, I’m a firm believer in saying what you’re going to do, do it, then get the heck out. So that’s what I’m doing.

I’ve always tried to look long term in my visioning and our decision making. Therefore, in my opinion, here are the upcoming challenges I feel the next council will have to face. You, and the future candidates, may have your own opinions, but the following is simply what my heart and gut are telling me to pay attention to.

Dealing with COVID 19

As we try to figure out how to continue our daily lives in a world where science, politics, and emotions are battling it out, it’s extremely important for all of our businesses, schools, and organizations to continue to have the opportunity to do what they do.

Even though all of the above are having to adapt and change at a fast pace, we need to keep living our lives and keep our economy running and open.

Having said that, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow with this stuff and what we do know is we have to remain safe until we all have a good understanding of what’s going on.

So we’re all going to have to be patient and do the best we can.

Complete Downtown

Our downtown project is well underway and it is going to be something the City can be proud of. It will greatly improve the aesthetics of the downtown and provide a great foundation and opportunity for that business community to continue to grow.

A vast majority of the project will be completed this fall with maybe some of the amenities being installed next Spring.

When done, the next council will be tasked in figuring out how to work with that business community to maintain standards, to maximize economic potential, and to find new ways to market our new downtown as a destination.

Recreational Park

Our beautiful Recreational Park is practically complete and is currently being used.

Unfortunately, COVID has dampened activities for this season. But it won’t be long and we’ll certainly see continuous activity out there, which is exciting.

However, the next council needs to remember that the City’s participation in this project requires an economic development benefit. So, I encourage the next council and our rec park committee to continue to bridge the gap between the Rec Park activities and our local businesses so we’re getting our biggest bang for our invested buck.

Annandale Recreational Facility

We are blessed to have our businesses, service organizations, schools, and city all going in the same direction. That direction is one of keeping things simple while preparing our community for future prosperity.

New High School/Current Middle School Property

As you may know, our school district has plans to build a new high school south of the Rec Park. This will require Norway Dr E to extend north all the way to the current high school

This also means the current middle school property will no longer be needed.

The City and the next council will most likely be involved with what happens with this property. There are a ton of possibilities and opportunities that can be explored.

I envision the entire property being redeveloped with a mixed-use of residential, commercial, and public space. I envision City Hall moving into this space and making the current City Hall into retail space. I envision space for service businesses and business office incubation, especially in the Zoom revolution. I envision space for higher-end and higher density residential housing. And yes, I envision space for public community use.

Having said that, absolutely nothing should happen without extensive private partnerships. The City cannot, and should not, do something here alone. And the council and the public need to understand that any community space will most likely be a negative draw on public funds. So any costs for public space and use need to be drastically offset by real public and private economic opportunity in order to make it worth it.

Labor Challenges

In my 19-years with the City, I’ve always been impressed with what our City Administrators and Department heads have been able to accomplish with a minimal amount of staff. When compared to cities of similar or smaller sizes, we consistently have smaller staff sizes. This is because we’ve found great talent and we’ve led them well.

I’m a believer that government jobs should not lead the market in setting wages and salaries, but follow it. And over the past few years, Annandale has fallen behind. We just completed a comprehensive wage study that clearly shows this and we’ve made adjustments.

In addition, candidates for public works and police positions are continuing to decline due to low participation in those fields.

Therefore the next council and the public need to understand that as the market changes, so will our costs for labor and benefits.

Upcoming Projects

Over the past couple of decades, the City council has done a great job investing in our infrastructure. We are in the small minority of cities where most of our infrastructure (roads, buildings, facilities) can be considered new and updated. This is a fantastic position to be in.

We need to keep this up since we only have a few major street projects left. When all of our underground infrastructure is up to date, then our public works can focus more on preventative maintenance which increases the ROI on our infrastructure investments.

Fortunately, this council has worked very hard to attain outside funds for our upcoming major projects. This will give us the ability to tackle our smaller projects sooner than later.

Here are the upcoming major projects we need to prepare for:

  • Highway 55 Reconstruction (partnered with MnDOT)
  • Highway 55 / Poplar intersection Reconstruction (partnered with MnDOT)
  • Highway 24 Roundabouts (partnered with MnDOT)
  • Here are some of the smaller projects we need to prepare for:
  • Hemlock Reconstruction
  • Brown/Highland Area Reconstruction
  • Southbrook Street

Here are some future strategic projects we need to prepare for:

  • Extension of Norway Dr E (from Sok’s Car Wash to the Rec Park / High School)
  • East/West Route south of town from Highway 55 to County Road 5

I am sure there are more, but these are the ones I see upcoming. The next council will continue to work with our public works department to prioritize needs and timing.

Development and Growth

We’ve done a good job making Annandale a very attractive place to live, work, and play. As we continue this, we’ll naturally attract growth.

In addition, as the big cities continue to deal with social and safety issues, their failures in doing so will naturally create a migration out. We have certainly experienced this over the past number of years with our record open enrollment numbers within our school system.

Currently, the growing demand is high and our supply is low in both Annandale’s commercial and residential space.

We’ve already set the gears in motion for our next business park, but steps need to be taken to advance this as quickly as possible.

As far as residential growth, we are ready and waiting for private developers to bring in projects now. If something isn’t proposed soon, the City may elect to develop its beautiful property adjacent to the Rec Park and new High School Site.

Raising our Standards

As we continue to grow, we need to understand that very few projects (including City projects, commercial development, and residential homes) ever exceed the minimum design requirements and performance standards.

In addition, our basic neighborhood quality of life is directly related to the minimum nuisance ordinances that are enforced, but more importantly, what you as a resident are willing to endure before you step up and say something.

I highly recommend the next council work with the public in taking a good hard look at all of our minimum design standards, performance standards, and nuisance ordinances and ask themselves if the current minimums are good enough.

Again, we’ll continue to get only what our current standards and minimums will allow.

Code Enforcement

As our standards continue to change, how they will be enforced will continue to be a challenge.

Currently, the City of Annandale implements a complaint-driven enforcement style. The reason for this is we do not have the staff to go out with cameras and clipboards to try and find people doing something wrong. I hope this never happens.

We expect and assume our residents are responsible and respectful and the less the City needs to get involved in your lives, the better. Remember, relying on the government to handle a code enforcement issue is like going through a divorce. When done, no one got what they wanted and everyone feels like they got the shaft.

Having said that, our residents need to be familiar with the local ordinances, covenants (if applicable), but most importantly get to know their neighbors and learn how to set a neighborhood tone while learning how to work together.

When successful, code enforcement will be less of an issue.

Additional Admin Staff

We’ve been making Annandale awesome and now it is time to capitalize on what we’ve accomplished. As we continue to grow, so does our demand for certain services, businesses, and amenities.

Currently, all of our city staff are focused on the day-to-day operations and we have no one working on our economic development, fundraising, and finding opportunities for the City.

Therefore, I urge the next council to assess our current City Administration staff and add another position to allow us to focus more on economic development, grants, funding opportunities, and to help the council organize and understand how the City will grow so they can make better decisions in the future.

In Conclusion

I’m proud of what the City of Annandale has accomplished over the past 19-years. I’m especially proud of the fact that we’ve proven this small town can do big things.

Even though I’ll be done with the City government, I’ll still be around the area. I plan on focusing on my business, my family, and achieving my dreams.

I’d like to thank all of you for your support and patience. I had a good time and we helped a lot of people.

I’ll leave you with this. Annandale’s strength will always be directly related to the number of quality people that are willing to get involved and have the courage to step up, say what they think, and take action.

I did my part, now it’s time to do yours.

Thanks, Annandale

Mayor Gunnarson


Last Updated on January 29, 2021.

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