By Mark Fischenich
---- — MANKATO — Mayor Eric Anderson, who often remarks on the substantial impact of state and federal government decisions on Mankato, considered moving his name from the municipal part of the Nov. 4 ballot to the state House of Representatives when he files his candidacy late this month.
In the end, though, Anderson decided that his current office is the one he wants.
"I was evaluating some other options with respect to public office," Anderson said. "I knew I was going to run for something. I thought I was best served running for this in terms of what I could offer the public."
A Mankato native who grew up in Lake Crystal and has been a financial adviser in Mankato for more than two decades, Anderson is bullish on his city's future. But he's also worried — about demographic trends and a federal budget mess that could eventually curtail the grants and aid from Washington and St. Paul that the city has historically relied on.
"The underpinnings of our viability are not guaranteed," he said.
In 2010, Anderson advanced to the general election after narrowly finishing in the top two in an August primary election. In the primary, he won fewer than half the votes of first-place finisher John Brady, the incumbent mayor and a 14-year member of the council. But fewer than two weeks later, an extremely intoxicated Brady was arrested for drunken-driving in the Twin Cities after initially failing to pull over for police and hitting another vehicle before finally stopping.
Anderson easily won the general election. He talked little about Brady's personal problems, focusing instead on his financial acumen and his strong belief that higher levels of government have a huge impact on municipal government.
"And that's been verified in spades," he said.
But he's also come to realize the current City Council's options are limited by decisions made by previous councils. He mentions past policies that set water rates at a level that didn't generate enough revenue to operate and maintain Mankato's water and sewer infrastructure. Or budget choices that cut the parks' maintenance spending below what was needed just to preserve existing parks, a choice that may require a levy hike of more than $300,000 next year.
With a lot of turnover on the council in the past few years, including the exit of some veteran council members, Anderson said it's especially important that experienced members are there to ask questions and insist information be provided on the long-term implications of decisions.
Council meetings, though, have been only a small part of the job, he said. Along with ceremonial duties where the mayor stands as Mankato's ambassador, there are also numerous meetings with other local partners, including businesses, the colleges, North Mankato, Blue Earth County, other area governments, regional organizations, the health-care industry and state and federal officials.
"I've built up very good relationships locally, regionally, statewide," Anderson said. "I think that's a real benefit for our town."