Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, November 16, 1998

Winsted's new city administrator near home

By LUIS E. PUGA

You'll want to ask him the first time you meet him, so here's the answer: he is 6 feet 8 inches, and he did play basketball in college.

But what one notices about Aaron Reeves, 24, is the excitement he exudes when he talks about his new position as city administrator for Winsted.

Two weeks young on the job, and he's already got a lot to say.

But what brought him here?

Reeves has always enjoyed the rural life. He grew up in the area and went to high school in Watertown. Living in Winsted brings him back close to his family and to the metro area, both of which he likes.

Professionally, Winsted is attractive because of its industry.

"Most towns . . . they don't have that kind of economic base," he said.

Economic growth issues send the pen in his right hand twirling a little faster, and makes his gestures more animated. Reeves sees promoting the industrial park as vital. This involves general marketing and an honest evaluation about the city's position in soliciting industries.

"You can't exclude right away," he said."You're usually not the first choice."

As more businesses come, he said, that's when you begin to pick and choose. It's also when you give assistance to those you want to keep.

Reeves wants to keep Winsted's existing industries happy by keeping the lines of communication open. He sees their successes and wonders about their futures.

If they get bought out, he wants to be able to say to new owners, "What do you need to stay?"

Currently, he's investigating the University of Minnesota's Business Retention/Expansion Program, which he has seen succeed in other cities. This would formalize city/industry communication, according to Reeves.

On top of that, he points out that how the city gets along with its current businesses is a good advertisement to interested industries, and that this growth will, in the long run, benefit the citizens.

Reeves is mindful that the citizens are his "customers."

"If people have concerns, they have to know they can come and let you know," he said.

Citizen involvement has to be maintained, and he sees moving city hall downtown as key. By providing basic access and having adequate meeting space, involvement is encouraged in his opinion.

He'd like to see the city own its space eventually, pointing out how renting jeopardized the current city hall and the library: both buildings have been sold.

Further down the line, he'd like to see police and library in the same building with the city council.

Because it means cost, possibly a bond, he knows that people need to be kept informed.

If these changes worry some people, Reeves understands why. He encountered that issue in Cook County as economic developer. But, he said, growth is inevitable in this community.

"With Winsted's location, it's an issue we may not have much control over," he said, citing the number of commuters and its proximity to the Twin Cities.

For now though, things are in a state of suspended animation. A new mayor and council are on their way, and proposing big projects needs to wait.

So Reeves will concentrate on updating the ordinances. He admits, "We're a little behind."

He envisions his position as splitting his time between working on the big projects and doing research for the city council.

He recognizes that the city clerk has taken care of the basics of running the city, freeing him up for creating a pay raise schedule, working on the comprehensive land use survey, or just attending meetings.

At those meetings, Reeves sees himself as a resource to the council and the citizens. He realizes that he's there to supply information that council members need in order to make informed decisions.

Overall, his job is one that varies, depnding on what people need.

"You don't do the same things every day. It's hard to pin down," he said.

Whatever those duties are, he admits they'll keep him busy.

As for hobbies, he simply states that it's hard to have hobbies with kids. He spends as much time with his wife Page, his son Isaiah, 3, and his daughter Mariah, 2.

When they can, they go to plays in Chanhassen or the big Broadway shows when they come around.

Also, he plays some recreational basketball at Watertown-Mayer High School.


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