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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Rossing, mayoral candidate, looks to change city leadership

<re declaring her candidacy for mayor of Northfield, downtown businesswoman Mary Rossing gathered together a diverse group of Northfield residents and asked them what they thought the city needed from its next mayor. What these people wanted for Northfield, Rossing said, was someone with her inclusive style of leadership. She was, as she put it, “the right person for right now.”

She claims the city needs a change in leadership to restore faith in government after the tenure of current mayor Lee Lansing, who has been accused of several ethics violations while in office.

In the mayoral primary on September 9, Lansing finished a distant sixth. Rossing finished first with 40% of votes cast, while Paul Hager, technical director of CAMS at Carleton, came in second with approximately half as many votes. Hager and Rossing advanced to the general election, to be held on November 4.

Hager and Rossing appear to agree on most of the major issues facing the city, including the need to cut costs in light of an imminent budget shortfall. Hager has said that his experience in Northfield government, including a term as mayor between 1994-1997 and stints on city council and the school board, makes him the best candidate to get the city back on the right track.

Rossing has never held elected office, but she has served as president of the Northfield Historic Society and is currently president of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation. Since 1997 she has owned Picture Perfect, an “eclectic gift store” in downtown Northfield. She said that the inclusive leadership style she cultivated while running her business will serve her well in city government.

As a leader, Rossing said that she inspires those working with her to do better. She said that as mayor, she plans to listen closely to all constituencies in Northfield, especially to the recommendations of appointed boards and commissions while always keeping the big picture in focus.

Recently, she has been meeting with representatives of the various boards in city government in order to become better informed about the work they do.

According to Rossing, the role of the mayor is to set policy and give direction to the city’s staff, and then trust the staff to come up with specific proposals. Micromanaging, she said, was one reason why current mayor Lansing got in trouble. Rather than go through the budget line-by-line to make cuts, for example, she would delegate this work to staff members and then personally evaluate their proposals.

Despite the impending budget crunch, Rossing said it was necessary for Northfield to retain its focus on economic development in order to grow its tax base. She said that the city is “overbuilt” in housing, and needs to focus on bringing more business to Northfield and providing more high-paying jobs. She described downtown Northfield as “the heart and soul of the city” and said the city should strive to be more amenable to biking and walking in order for downtown to remain strong.

Rossing described St. Olaf and Carleton as “tremendous assets” to Northfield, that provide a degree of stability to the town’s economy through the current downturns. The fact that the colleges do not pay property taxes has sometimes been a point of contention, but she said town-gown relations were generally positive.

She encourages students to vote in town elections, but only if they are informed about the candidates running for office. Though her opponent, Hager, works in the CAMS department at Carleton, Rossing said she was confident that many people in the Carleton community would vote for her.

Rossing lived in Northfield for many years as a child; her father was a physics professor at St. Olaf. Though her family eventually moved away, she came back to Northfield to attend St. Olaf as a studio art major. She said that what drew her back to Northfield was its “diverse, conscious” community, and its “great potential.”

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