Nov 24 WEEKENDER: Bob Kendel and Gary Smith, one year after being elected to Grand Forks city council

It has been a year since Bob Kendel and Gary Smith were elected to Grand Forks' city council. Here are their reflections.

Coun. Gary Smith (left) and Coun. Bob Kendel (right) have been part of Grand Forks' city council for a year.

It has been about a year since city councillors Bob Kendel and Gary Smith were elected into office and both have learned a lot since they first took the positions.

For Kendel, the year has been an interesting experience.

“It’s been an extraordinary learning curve and probably one of the most interesting and challenging things I’ve ever done,” he said. “The biggest thing has been meeting all the people in the region that are making all this happen (new development and infrastructure repair) not just in Grand Forks, but in the area and how well we mesh together.”

He noted that this first year has been focused on laying down a good foundation for the next two years, including the creation of the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC).

“It’s not a fast process these things and it takes a lot of commitment over the long term by a lot of people to make anything positive happen,” he explained. “You need to have a good, solid groundwork and I believe we have a group of good people on the economic development and a good council that are willing to work together. All of those things should make things go forward.”

Some future projects Kendel would like to see are an initiative to promote the Grand Forks Airport and increasing accessibility within the community to bolster the local economy.

“My conversations with the general public have been with guarded optimism that things are looking, overall, more positive for the community,” Kendel concluded. “The most difficult thing is having people look at you slightly different the day after the election than the day before the election.”

Also completing his first year in office, Smith has learned a lot about city council and has enjoyed the experience so far.

“On the outside you see things getting done or not done that may not be to your liking, but when you get out there to start campaigning to get into office, you don’t have the full view of the real picture,” Smith recalled. “The first term is learning what that full view is and the scope of our ability to work on behalf of the city and our constituents. Based on that knowledge now, I’m looking forward to moving ahead in the second year.”

A key project Smith is currently working with EDAC is developing the new brand for the city to strengthen the economy.

Smith also pointed out his work with collecting pesticides, the bat house project, nephelometer and wildlife management.

“The most important project to date included working on the Airport Fly-in Show and tying it in with the market to Market (Ave.),” he said. “It served as a catalyst to get people downtown and excited about downtown. The carry-on from that is now we’ve had two downtown business meetings and they’re talking about putting together a merchants association and that’s where I’d like to focus on. I’d like to facilitate people and help them do what they want to do, and making downtown Grand Forks more lively.”

A future project both councilors would like to see is the creation of a community hall for the entire city to enjoy.

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