Rochester council sessions address uniqueness of current council experiences

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Jun. 11—ROCHESTER — A trio of special Rochester City Council learning sessions is set to wrap up Monday.

The council members, along with Mayor Kim Norton and several city staff members, held special five-hour sessions April 25 and May 23 in an effort to discuss differing approaches to their positions and personality traits that can help or hinder their work.

City Administrator Alison Zelms highlighted the unique nature of the current council as she introduced the facilitator, Kent Myers of Laveville, Minnesota-based Vision Cos., during the first session.

"You've been seated as the council and as mayor for only 18 months, but have only been together for a month," she said. "This is unique. You haven't really been sitting in rooms together, seeing each other and really feeling the dynamics of the room."

The majority of council meetings since January 2020 had been held online in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID.

"You are the most unique Rochester City Council because no one else has served that way," Zelms added.

Using the first two sessions, as well as one-on-one discussions with private facilitators, the council members have been considering how their different approaches and personalities can work together to establish unified goals for the city.

"It's about strategic priorities," Zelms said of the initial discussions. "It's not about decision-making or policy-making."

As the May 23 session wrapped up, council members were voicing support for finding ways to increase communication and finding new avenues for collaboration.

"I think there is good reason to be connected individually," council member Patrick Keane said. "It's not to collude together, but to have connections."

Others said it's important to help each other express their viewpoints and find ways to understand the different perspectives on the council and in the community.

"I will support you in being sure you are getting your message heard," Council President Brooke Carlson told her fellow council members. "Whatever I can do to try to help pull out the message or reiterate what you are trying to say, so it's validated."

In addition to Zelms, several other staff members attended the sessions with the mayor and council.

City Attorney Michael Spindler-Krage joined Zelms and the council at the main table, while deputy administrators Aaron Parrish and Cindy Steinhauser, Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman and Rochester Public Utilities General Manager Mark Kotschevar followed along and participated in some of the discussions.

To set the discussions apart from typical council meetings, the public sessions are being held outside of council chambers, with the first at the city's Development Services and Infrastructure Center, 4001 West River Parkway, and the second at the Mayo Civic Center.

The final session is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. Monday in the Rochester Public Library auditorium. The sessions have not been recorded or livestreamed online.

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of June 13 include:

Rochester

—City Council special learning session, 3:30 p.m. Monday in Rochester Public Library auditorium, 101 Second St. SE.

—Airport Commission, 2:15 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 201 Fourth St. SE

—Police Policy Oversight Commission, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 164B of the Development Services and Infrastructure Center, 4001 West River Parkway

—Library Board, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in meeting room C of the Rochester Public Library, 101 Second St. SE.

Olmsted County

—Environmental Commission, 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in conference room A at 2122 Campus Drive SE.

—Planning Advisory Commission, 7 p.m. Thursday, board chambers of the Government Center.

Rochester Public Schools

—School Board study session, 5 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Edison Building, 615 Seventh St. SW.