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Local roots run deep for new Afton mayor

Afton Mayor Dick Bend.

It’s only been two weeks since Dick Bend was appointed to serve as Afton’s mayor, but he’s already settling in nicely.

Bend, 65, took the oath of office during a special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 2.

He was appointed by Afton City Council last month to carry out former mayor Pat Snyder’s remaining term following her resignation in December. Snyder had one year left on her term.

“I feel very privileged that you have confidence in me because of the high regard I hold for all of you,” Bend said to City Council following his swearing in. “If I had been elected, I would not feel as privileged, not feel as honored knowing that all of you know me and chose me.

“I hope collectively we can envision a future Afton that we can agree is best.”

 Growing up in Afton

Bend’s local roots run deep.

He grew up in Afton, the same city his grandparents moved to in the 1800s.

“I enjoy the rural country atmosphere,” he said. “I grew up with it.”

Early in Bend’s career he worked for a newspaper in Idaho before deciding that he was interested by the legal process.

Following the completion of law school, he practiced business law and commercial litigation at a number of law firms over the years.

He retired in May 2013.

In terms of government experience, Bend said his experience has all been at the local level.

Prior to his appointment, Bend was serving his third term on Afton Planning Commission.

Additionally, Bend was also instrumental in the application to dismantle the Afton Charter Commission.

“I have a lifetime of experience in advising and running things,” he said.

A new role

When City Council approached Bend about taking the position of mayor, he said he decided to step forward because he wanted to see Afton continue on the path it was on.

“I’m committed to a future that reflects (residents’) desires,” he said. “I was also ready to take on something different.”

Bend said his philosophy on government is participation among everyone and realization of goals.

In terms of his vision for the city, Bend said he would like Afton to continue implementing the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

“I don’t have any personal goals that are inconsistent with the council,” he said. “I have a family history of loving Afton and always wanted to preserve it in a way that is consistent with its roots.”

Bend said he would like to increase volunteer participation, however.

“There’s always turnover,” he said, “so we need to find people to fill those roles.”

Additionally, Bend said he would like to turn a focus to the city’s downtown project to ensure the city protects it in a way that is fiscally responsible.

Bend said he would also like to maintain consistency between the city’s zoning, development and comprehensive plan.

First item of business

Bend quickly slipped into the role of mayor last week following his swearing in.

City Council approved its annual committee and commission appointments during the special meeting.

“We should spread out some of these things so we don’t burn out the new man,” Council Member Randy Nelson said regarding Snyder’s previous commitments.

Many of the 2014 appointments remained the same as 2013.

“I have some inclination not to make radical changes in the first meeting,” Bend said. 

However, City Council decided to dismantle its Technology Committee, and no longer have representatives to the Shared Services committee as well as the Fire Services Committee.

Bend also requested that the city advertise for more volunteers for several of the city’s committees.

“The more residents we can have involved, the better,” he said. 

In his first meeting as mayor, Bend took control of several discussions that were meandering or that included a lot of back and forth.

“I’m hoping we can have a community conversation without my acting as moderator,” he said.

City Council opted to continue several discussions related to committee reports and how committees are made up to a future meeting.

Even though Bend said he has no idea if he would want to file for the mayor’s seat in the future, he said he is excited for the next year.

“I’m not holding this position because of a desire to be a politician” he said, “but a desire to guide the Afton that I love.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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