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The Real Kim Norton - Part Two

August 25, 2019 03:12 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, voters in Rochester elected Kim Norton to be their next Mayor. She would proceed long-time Mayor Ardell Brede and also become the first woman to hold the position in the city.

"It has been busy from the very first week," said Rochester Mayor Kim Norton. "There has been a lot of learning that had to happen. There wasn't a training period and because both the Mayor and Mayor's assistant left at the same time there really wasn't that continuity to help me know what I was supposed to do when. So I've had to learn from scratch and my executive assistant Michon Rogers has too."

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Before election day, Kim stayed busy attending council meetings, events and anything else she could to stay on top of the issues facing the city. But once in office, she and city council members were hit with an issue that wasn't at the front of their radars.

"I came with some initiatives that I cared about when I ran for office. I was unaware that the growing homelessness problem had burgeoned like it did and I think it caught everybody unaware. But for me, you don't have something like that happen in a community and brush it off and act like it's not there, you deal with it," said Mayor Norton.

Mayor Norton and other city leaders continue to work alongside Olmsted County to find a solution. Most recently, looking into the use of the former Silver Lake Fire Station or the strip mall across from the Olmsted County Government Center as a warming center during the winter months.

Collaboration is also something this former state representative thrives on. And while she didn't see as much of it as she wanted to while in the legislature, Mayor Norton's calendar is already filling up with meetings. After being elected to join other Mayors from around the world for the Harvard-Bloomberg Collaborative, Mayor Norton learned the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

"Our issues with homelessness, our issues with affordable housing, our issues with building sustainable communities and taking over where the federal government is failing us, those were uniform. I would say the one difference we had is some of the larger cities had blight and areas of their downtown that are boarded up. We don't have that problem. We're building new. The city of Rochester's on a positive growth trend that bodes well for our future. Not all cities have that same thing," said Mayor Norton.

She's also making city government more transparent and even using social media to keep the public up to date on what she's doing outside the city hall.

"Having worked through school board for 8 years and then 10 years in the legislature and having 4 children saying 'Mom, get with the program'. I was always one of the top 5 legislators on Facebook and Twitter. Not only did it help me keep in contact with my kids as they went away to college, as many parents do, my son said you need to use this to your advantage as a public figure," said Mayor Norton.

Just by posting a picture, Mayor Norton is giving the public an inside look at the ways she's working to address Rochester's needs. And what she does takes time. At $36,000 per year being the Mayor of Rochester is still considered a part-time position.

"As my husband would say, another 14 hour day when are you coming home? That's just the way it is. I don't mind doing it, I knew what I was getting into, but I think it's disingenuous to the community to hear that this is a part-time position it's disingenuous to people in the future who might want to run. This is a full-time plus full-time job," said Mayor Norton.

From sustainable city development and transit plans to safe, inclusive neighborhoods with affordable housing, Mayor Norton is working around the clock to make her priorities known.

"I get to represent a community that is vital and growing. Change is hard and a lot of people that I talk to are worried and afraid, Rochester's changing. And it is changing. But change isn't always bad. Change can be exciting and uplifting and it will mean jobs and a strong economy despite the next downturn which we know is coming and we're going to be prepared for it," said Mayor Norton.

Connect with Rochester Mayor Kim Norton on Facebook.

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