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Outgoing council member Paul Rebholz reflects on 20 years of ‘hanging around’ city hall

The Woodbury city council hasn't had an outgoing member for nearly a decade. From left to right: Amy Scoggins, Paul Rebholz, Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, Julie Ohs and Christopher Burns. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)1 / 2
Outgoing Woodbury Council Member Paul Rebholz was awarded what he and others call the "Hargis stop sign," named after former Mayor Bill Hargis. The sign was placed on an unenforceable location near Stonemill Farms. City staff signed the back of the sign as a gift to Rebholz. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad) 2 / 2

For the past 20 years, public service and community volunteering have been a large part of Paul Rebholz's life. But after 12 years of serving on the Woodbury City Council and on various advisory boards prior, he said it was finally time move on after deciding to not run for a fourth term.

On Dec. 14, he gave his final thanks to the city by closing out the council's final meeting of the year and marking the conclusion of his tenure as a Woodbury City Council member.

"It's been a pleasure to serve our community with each of you," he said of current and past city officials while choking up at times. "Your early influence shaped my thinking about our community and charted a course I felt compelled to follow."

At the suggestion of a friend, he ran for City Council in 2003. He said in an interview that he never intended to run for council in the first place.

Before being elected, Rebholz served on the Economic Development Commission in 1999, as well as a number of other volunteer appointments.

An active volunteer, Rebholz also spent much of his free time away from a demanding career as a public finance banking officer at Wells Fargo by also coaching youth sports in Woodbury.

"I'll miss the strategic part of what the city does, the stuff that maybe a lot of people don't understand, and watching policy play itself out over a period of time," he said. "It's not always easy."

Rebholz recalled the council turning down development projects that weren't always a fit in the past, as well as carefully weighing options if certain projects would change the look and feel of a neighborhood.

"We know not everyone's going to be happy with a decision, but you have to make one," he said.

Past and present city officials said Rebholz's financial background and ability to articulate trends also played an important asset during the 2008 recession.

A Hudson, Wis. native, his peers on the council say he played a large role in his tenure with the success in guiding a task force charged with the financial planning of Eagle Valley Golf Course that experienced financial hardship in 2012.

This past year, the publicly-owned golf course had the most rounds of golf played and is no longer in the financial rough it once was.

Former Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis, who served until 2010, said while serving as mayor, he thought Rebholz had a good pulse on the economy and was able to put complicated financial forecasts and details into plain English.

"He had both a professional approach knowing the details, but he also had a common-man sense," he said. "That was important guidance through the turbulent recession times."

The city hasn't seen an outgoing council member in a decade, a testament Hargis said to having strong leadership.

"We're the ninth biggest city in Minnesota now," Rebholz said. "We can't afford to have a dysfunctional government."

City Administrator Clinton Gridley, who began working in city hall a few months before Rebholz, said much of his legacy said he often appreciated his willingness to sometimes ask a pointed question and see other sides of a potential debate. Before Wednesday's council meeting, staff presented Rebholz with a parting gift — a semi-controversial stop sign that frequently drew his critique in meetings.

Nicknamed the 'Hargis stop sign,' the sign was removed last year from an intersection near Stonemill Farms last year. The sign was unenforceable, meaning police couldn't issue tickets when motorists blew through it.

Staff wrote their farewell wishes on the back of the sign.

Woodbury's current mayor, Mary Giuliani Stephens, also lauded Rebholz with a plaque Wednesday to highlight his service.

As for the future, Rebholz said he doesn't have any immediate plans.

"Really I have no plans other than go to my job and hope they let me keep showing up," he said.