The wheels fall off in Lake Elmo

The soap opera in Lake Elmo has taken another turn. The sixth member of the city’s government is quitting, adding to the perception of a city in turmoil following the election of a voting bloc on the City Council.

“We are in a dire situation,” Council member Justin Boyer tells the St. Paul Pioneer Press in the wake of the resignation of city planner Nick Johnson.

That’s not an insignificant loss considering Lake Elmo has been mired in controversy for years over how it will grow, and the split on the council has occurred with the election of a growth-shy slate that has campaigned on not becoming neighboring Woodbury.

Johnson is the sixth city hall staffer to leave in recent months. The list includes administrator Dean Zuleger, deputy clerk Beckie Gumatz, assistant city administrator Adam Bell, and taxpayer relations manager Alyssa MacLeod.

“I think this is a fabricated drama meant to hurt the two new councilors and myself,” Council member Anne Smith told the newspaper.

“The council certainly micromanages and shows distrust. But what is most impactful is the neglect they show the staff for the dignity and respect they deserve,” Pearson said.

“I thought we had quite a team assembled, with good esprit de corps. To see that vanquished over the past two months has been difficult,” Pearson said. “Turnover is hard, expensive and damaging.”

Bloyer said the departures have hurt the city’s ability to conduct business.

“City taxpayers are being hurt. The phones are not getting picked up and the emails are not getting answered,” he said.

  • tboom

    Yep, City staff members throw their personal and professional lives into turmoil just to embarrass three council members.

  • C

    Think through that logic. Maybe one person would quit to prove a point. But 6? No way. The Administrator protected his staff from abuse, that protection is gone so who would stay in such an environment. The Council needs to compromise and become one team instead of two.

    • The bigger issue is managing growth vs. keep a town idyllic. Lake Elmo already has plans to be Little Woodbury in some southern sections. It’s not just whether a Council can get along — it only mirrors the community as a whole — it’s how a town survives the onslaught of sprawl without destroying itself (including relationships within the town) in the process.

      • tboom

        I’m not a city planner but it seems to me that once developers reach your town or township, you’re going to become a some sort of a suburb whether you want to or not (and I doubt anybody really wants to be a suburb). Lake Elmo just seems to be another example of politicians unable to find workable solutions because they can’t have exactly what they want either in the face of other opinions or in the face of reality. Unfortunately for Lake Elmo the council members unable to find workable solutions are in charge.

        • It’s slightly more complex than that partly because the Met Council has been forcing Lake Elmo to do what it doesn’t want to do. Or didn’t want to do. It was quite a court case .

          From what I gather, Afton will be the next battleground against the Woodbury infidels.

          • tboom

            Yah, in the back of my mind I figured it was more complicated and I suspected it involved the Met Council. Which just goes to show that I shouldn’t comment on issues I haven’t researched. That said, and without researching the court case, here I go again! 🙂

            I’m not an “all government is bad, do away with regulation” kind of guy. However I have always been bothered by the lack of citizen control over the very powerful Metropolitan Council. The Met Council has always seemed (to me) to run a shoddy bus system, charge what they want for wastewater treatment, and force city planners to build the kind of suburb the Council thinks should be built.

            From my limited knowledge, the situation seems to be that Lake Elmo already negotiated with the Met Council and signed what they, at the time, believed was the best agreement available. What the three City Council members should realize is that harassing City employees isn’t going to change Met Council rules and regulations or the agreement. Also, while City Employees are obligated to follow City Council direction, following rules and regulations (the law) trumps the Council.

            You’d think I’d have better things to do on a beautiful June weekend than sit on the patio writing about Lake Elmo and the Met Council !!!! The kids are all busy and the Twins are out of town. Geeeez it’s come to this, News Cut on a weekend. 🙂

          • rosswilliams

            Metropolitan Council ought to be an elected body. Portland OR has a n elected metropolitan government and it works very well..

      • Erik Petersen

        I live in these parts, and I’ll probably have melancholy when bucolic, exurban LE and Afton are gone. But I figure I’ll be pretty old.
        It’s going to take some time, like decades. Hence I don’t really understand the anxiousness. If it really happens. ‘Executive housing’ is still kind of the coin of the realm in the bucolic exurbs. But it
        isn’t like the old days, when land was expensive but enough people wanted a starter castle in the country, thus making for viable real estate development business. Now land is expensive and McMansions
        are out of fashion, not favored by demographics, and not as attainable economically.

        I’m dubious enough houses can go up to radically change the nature of these little bedroom communities out there. So the NIMBY anxiety strikes one as a curious thing.

        • A lot of the “rural” charm is afforded by farmers, who in many cases are getting on in years. I can’t imagine how those farmers resist the big money that developers offer.

          • Erik Petersen

            That’s no doubt true in ways. I think the crux of the biscuit might be, who’s left to sell? You get some sense those guys that were low hanging apples already took their checks in recent years. The land that’s left is held in yes small but still more complex commercial farming arrangements. They farm.
            They sell their land, they can’t farm. Also, quite a bit of land seemingly held by sand and gravel interests that’s being farmed as it’s not being mined. I might completely misunderstand I suppose.

  • John

    quoted from above: “I think this is a fabricated drama meant to hurt the two new councilors and myself,” Council member Anne Smith told the newspaper.

    Really? You honestly think someone (or six people) is/are going to quit their job, the thing that pays for their home and their food, just to “hurt” three city councilors and fabricate drama?

    I think Councilor Smith needs to think a little bit about that.

    • Paul

      Anne Smith is part of the problem in Lake Elmo; anything she says is cheap.

  • LE Expatriot

    As a Lake Elmo Expatriot, I can tell you the current story is much more about Anne Smith and her power trip than anything else. Anne lives in one of the very McMansion suburban developments she purports to now oppose. She has locked heads with the no-growth types like Steve DeLapp for years before then turning on the moderate growthers she once supported. Anne also benefits financially in her real estate job by selling homes in the very developments that she approved on the City County. No conflict of interest there.
    What Anne opposes is anything she cannot control or personally dictate. She has torched organizations, relationships and people wherever she walks – ask folks at her church, at the school district, at Washington County, or at City Hall where she has championed cleaning house not once, not twice but now three times.
    No. Anne Smith is the worst type of bully and needs to be treated as such.