Archived Story

Thacker: RTC issue needs decision soon

Published 10:54am Thursday, August 16, 2012

As Fergus Falls’ two-week filing period for city office went by, 18 people decided to throw their hats into the ring. Some were familiar faces, some were new, and all of the current city leaders up for election were among them.

Except one: JoEllen Thacker, current alderman of Ward Four. She’s ready to retire, save for one big issue: the future of the Regional Treatment Center.

Thacker, who retired in 2007 from her position as assistant to the city administrator, said that while she’s enjoyed her time as a council member, she and her husband Mike would like a more unfettered schedule.

“From the beginning, I didn’t think it would be real long term,” she said of her time on the council. “I’ve contributed and done my part. We just want to be gone more, especially in the winter (to) travel more.”

Though the council has made a number of controversial decisions since Thacker was elected in 2008, she believes the council has helped move the city forward.

“I think it’s been a very productive four years,” she said. “We made the decision on the police (station) … and the Tower Road bridge, that’s almost finished, and of course the ice arena.”

The new community ice arena may have been the most scrutinized issue the council tackled during Thacker’s tenure, but she believes the council’s decision to move ahead with the project was a good one.

“When we came on board and got the reports about what bad shape it was in, I was one of the people who envisioned that we could get a lot of money raised for it and we could get a sales tax (to fund the rest),” she said, adding that she felt the city should act when donors are willing to fund almost half the cost of an asset.

Another major issue she faced as an alderman is what to do with the RTC, and Thacker hopes her work on that front is not done. She would like the current council to make a big decision on the building’s future before the new council members take office. She said the building and its grant deadline might put the new council in a time crunch as it struggles to synthesize a decade of information about preservation efforts.

“Hopefully we can make some decisions there,” she said, adding, “Maybe there will be smaller decisions that the next council will have to make.”

As to what decision the council should or will make, Thacker is unsure.

“It’s really in a flux right now,” she said.

She’s proud of her work, but Thacker said the most rewarding part of the job was making connections.

“I just have appreciated a lot of different people that I probably wouldn’t have come in contact with (otherwise),” she said.

Though she sometimes received criticism, Thacker said she tried to base her decisions not on present popularity, but on a question: “Looking down the road 10 years, will this be a good decision?”

Yes or no, she tried to make the future the reason for her vote.


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