For Hargis and city, 'change in the air'“I think 17 years is long enough and the city seems to be in good hands,” Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis said in deciding he will not seek re-election this fall.
It is a big week for Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis.
He celebrated his and several relatives’ birthdays. Also, Hargis, a baseball enthusiast and Minnesota Twins season-ticket holder, watched the local team start a new era of outdoor ball.
Lastly, Hargis brought a different era toward a close when he decided to not run for a fifth term as mayor this fall.
“Change is in the air,” he said of the timing of his announcement.
Hargis, 61, said several factors led to him opting against re-election. There is stability in city government, he said. City administrator Clint Gridley has been on the job six years, Hargis said, and he expressed confidence in fellow city council members.
Also, Hargis said he has family issues that deserve attention, and he wants to return to work full time.
“I think 17 years is long enough and the city seems to be in good hands,” he said. “It’s time for a transition, I think.”
Hargis got his start on the Woodbury City Council in 1992. He was appointed mayor in 1993 after then-Mayor Ken Mahle resigned. Hargis won his first four-year mayoral term in 1994 and went on to win re-election in 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Hargis’ tenure as mayor coincided with Woodbury’s explosive growth. The city’s population has tripled, growing from 20,075 in 1990 to around 60,000 now. There has been a similar boom in residential and commercial development.
Development and transportation issues have dominated the city agenda, along with another issue: water. Woodbury faced groundwater pollution concerns related to a 3M superfund site, experienced flooding in 2005 and has dealt with regional watershed management issues.
“I probably learned the most about water,” Hargis said. “All sorts of water – from having not enough water to having too much water to (reducing) contaminants.”
Hargis said he is leaving office healthy. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June 2008, but had surgery later that year, underwent radiation treatment and has since been cancer free.
Gridley called Hargis a valuable mentor. When Gridley came to Woodbury in 2004, Hargis helped him get acquainted with city government and the community.
“Bill has been such a steady hand over the last 18 years, and he’s been a real servant-leader to all of us who have worked with him,” Gridley said.
The filing period to run for mayor and city council is not until August. Gridley said Hargis’ announcement is indicative of his leadership style.
“One of his favorite things that he says over and over is, ‘No surprises,’” Gridley said.
Council member Amy Scoggins admitted she was a little surprised by Hargis’ decision, but only because of his lengthy tenure.
“It’s really hard to imagine not having him as mayor,” she said.
Scoggins, who was elected to the council in 2004, said Hargis’ strong leadership seems to be the result of his business talents and his strong character.
“He’s not politically motivated,” she said. “He’s a guy that really truly, from the bottom of his heart, wants to do what’s best for Woodbury.”
Former city administrator Barry Johnson worked with Hargis for 11 years and said he approached issues with an open mind and willingness to listen.
“I’m not sure people who haven’t had direct contact with the city government and the council appreciate just how important he has been in shaping the city that Woodbury has become,” Johnson said. “The city owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Hargis, an accountant and attorney, said he has no plans to run for another elected office, and intends to work for another 10 years. He has no business commitments lined up.
In the meantime, he returned to the diamond this spring as a coach to the Bethel University men’s baseball team, a volunteer post he has held for more than 20 years.
“Baseball to me has been a good release from the stresses of life and the business world,” he said. “It’s been a good opportunity.”