Mike Povolny said watching the Mendota Heights City Council appoint him to the vacant position in their ranks Jan. 18 was like watching a game of poker on TV.
“At least on television you see a couple of the cards they have,” said Povolny to the council.
The council appointed Povolny from a field of three applicants: Povolny, who has served on the airport relations committee and the planning commission; Jill Smith, a former council member and mayor candidate; and Ansis Viksnins, a planning commission member and litigator. The three were selected for final consideration after eight total applicants were interviewed Thursday, Jan. 13.
Discussion of an regarding tie votes kicked off the process. City Attorney Tami Diehm said that the League of Minnesota Cities advised a literal reading of the statute, which says, “In case of a tie vote in the council, the mayor shall make the appointment.” Some cities have interpreted that to mean that in the case of one tie, the mayor shall choose the appointment. Other cities interpret that to mean in the case of any particular tie, the mayor can decide to flex the appointment authority.
Diehm said that the League recommended that the first tie vote trigger an appointment, and also recommended that the mayor vote first in a roll call, so not to be in a position of triggering the tie and subsequent appointment.
Ultimately, Krebsbach decided to allow another motion when the second motion of the night by Ultan Duggan to appoint Smith failed on a tie vote. Krebsbach’s decision allowed council member Jack Vitelli to make the motion supporting Povolny.
The tension built by the series of motions started early. Each applicant addressed the council and made the case for their experience. Following the applicants’ statements, Krebsbach immediately made a motion to appoint Viksnins but did not receive support of another council member. Her motion did not make it to a vote.
That was followed by the tie vote—Krebsbach and Vitelli voting no against Smith after Duggan and council member Liz Petschel stated their case in her favor. The mayor then decided to reject the League’s recommended interpretation of the statute to allow another motion. That allowed for Vitelli’s successful motion in favor of Povolny.
Even that vote was laced with a bit of suspense when council member Ultan Duggan decided to pass on his turn after Krebsbach’s vote of yes. Diehm counseled that a pass means his turn will come again after everyone has voted. Liz Petschel then also passed, and Vitelli voted yes. Duggan and Petschel then voted yes on the second go-around, only after a lengthy pause by Duggan, to create a consensus on the appointment.
“I think she (Krebsbach) ran an outstanding meeting considering the delicacy, it was very difficult—very, very difficult,” said Vitelli. “Rather than call for a third nomination she could have named a person, and I think that would have been a terrible mistake.”
The mayor and council members all agreed after the meeting that the process, in their opinion, had been fair.
“I think the process went great, and I think the best part of the process was we were able to reach a unanimous consensus,” said Petschel, “and I think that’s our way of doing things in Mendota Heights.”
Viksnins declined to comment on the appointment.
“I think Mike will do an outstanding job,” said Jill Smith after the meeting. Smith said good points were made on her behalf about her past experience and earning 49 percent of the vote in November’s election when she ran for mayor. “I’m certainly disappointed I didn’t make it. … But I’m sure the city is in good hands.”
Povolny will be sworn in at a goal-setting session of the council Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 5 p.m.
“Of all the people in Mendota Heights, there’s a lot of talent here. So I’m very honored to have the position,” said Povolny after the meeting.
The vacancy was a result of Sandra Krebsbach’s election to mayor last November. Povolny will fill the remaining two years of her term.