Schmidt serves 20 years on Sleepy Eye City Council, will continue to serve the community

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

“Twenty years.” That’s what Joann Schmidt said when asked how long she served as Sleepy Eye Ward 1 City Councilor.

Ward 1 City Councilor for 20 years, Joann Schmidt’s final regular city council meeting was Tuesday, Dec. 8. That meeting was held virtually, but Schmidt agreed to pose for a photo in the City Council Chambers in City Hall.

Tuesday night’s meeting was Schmidt’s final scheduled City Council meeting, as she was not re-elected in the November election. She is sad not to continue, but has many memories and a lot more to give to Sleepy Eye.

“I guess it was when Earle Stevermer decided not to run again,” Schmidt said of her start on the council. “Some friends encouraged me to run. I had an interest in being a voice for our ambulance service, which I had already been on at that point for 18 years.”

While Schmidt has been a source of information about the ambulance service for her fellow councilors, she  also learned much about the city and all the departments that make it run as she contributed to council decisions over the past 20 years.

“When you serve on the council you start to realize how big and intricate a small city is — it’s a unit of government where everyone works together,” Schmidt said. “You might come in with one idea, but you start seeing things differently when you are a part of the city council.”

Schmidt said one of the more interesting aspects of serving on the city council was attending League of Cities conferences. “I loved League conferences,” she said. “So many topics of city government are covered and it is great to speak with peers from other cities around the state.”

What was most challenging for Schmidt?

“The budget definitely presented a big learning curve,” she said. “I am more a visual learner than a numbers person. I would sketch buckets pouring into each other to follow the flow of city funds.”

Asked what was most difficult about serving on the city council, Schmidt said, “More like painful — for many years, as a group we worked together, moving forward on things, such as developing the Snow property, not just purchasing it but going ahead and developing the area. We all agreed and had open communication.”

“It was more difficult for a time after the 2016 election,” she said, “but we turned a corner and it has been better. We do need varying backgrounds and opinions for input, but it’s also good to be able to work well together.”

Asked about big city projects, Schmidt said the Event Center was her favorite.

“We [the city council] were so involved in making every decision on the Event Center,” she said. “We had many meetings going over the plans and choosing among options. I also had the opprotunity to help make several design choices on the decor, lighting and furniture. I enjoyed it very much.”

But talking about that, brought to mind several others. 

“The pool, the lake trail,” said Schmidt. “Those were big projects that enhanced the city. Also, adding the new clinic at the medical center was important; it’s quite an accomplishment to continue with our successful independent hospital. We’ve been blessed as a community.”

Schmidt said having the opportunity to serve as council liasion on the different city boards and commissions has been interesting and the beneficial in making council decisions that affect those departments. She most recently has been on the Park Board and EDA.

Schmidt is happy to continue offering her time to a variety of city and community boards and committees. 

“Mayor Pelzel appointed me to the Hospital Board and I will continue on the EDA,” she said. “I’ve also agreed to serve on the Downtown Revitalization Committee.”

Schmidt is also on the board of directors for Little Sprouts Learning Center. She said she started working with the board as the EDA liaison but has since been elected to a position on the board. She said they are looking for additional board members and encouraged any one interested to reach out.

Schmidt also encourages any one interested in learning more about the city to offer to serve on a city board or commission. She said information on the boards is on the city’s website. “I would really like to encourage younger people to get involved and learn more about the city through service on one of these boards,” she said. “Contact Mayor Pelzel to offer your service or learn what is involved.”

“I am happy to serve the city in whatever way I can,” said Schmidt. I just want to see our community continue to thrive.”

In addition to the boards she serves on, Schmidt will stay busy with her part-time positions — she will continue to manage the city website, is on the Ambulance Service, and works when needed at Sleepy Eye Coffee Company.