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City Manager Harold Stewart aims to bring out Minot’s best

Jill Schramm/MDN Minot City Manager Harold Stewart stands in City Hall Jan. 14, having spent the past few weeks reacquainting himself with the city of his youth and getting to know the projects and needs of the community.

Since coming onboard Dec. 28, Minot’s new city manager has done a deep dive into city issues to be ready to tackle state legislative priorities in the short term and strategic planning for a new city vision in the long-term.

Harold Stewart II, who comes to Minot from the city manager’s position in Warrensburg, Missouri, also has been getting reacquainted with the community where he spent part of his youth while his father was serving at Minot Air Force Base.

“In a lot of ways, it’s the Minot I remember as a kid, with great people, a great environment. And then in other ways, it’s definitely grown and changed over the years, as most good, healthy communities do,” he said. “This community has spent a lot of time, effort and resources on building infrastructure. That really has Minot poised for growth for the foreseeable future. Great staff in place, great community leadership – all the pieces are there. It’s just a matter of bringing them together.”

Stewart said his initial focus as Minot’s city manager has been on establishing relationships within the community.

“And in some cases, if I can, to repair some relationships, gain trust and credibility of community partners and staff and council. I think those are going to be very integral in our ability to reach the potential that I can see going forward. The future of Minot is not something that the City of Minot can do by itself. It needs the partnership of many entities and individuals and citizens as a whole,” he said. “Secondly, I’m just learning and absorbing, the best I can, opinions and perspectives and history so that I can make sure that, collectively, we’re making the best decisions for Minot.”

Stewart stepped into the office as the North Dakota Legislature was about to enter its biennial session. City officials already have been offering information to legislators and working with the State Water Commission on flood protection funding. Stewart said he is keeping his schedule flexible to be able to contribute to that discussion as needed, although the option of virtual testimony this session makes the process easier.

Other than the legislative priority, Stewart said, one of his first projects will be to initiate a strategic planning session to establish a vision and goals for Minot.

“Two things that I think definitely need to have some community conversation would be: one, the downtown area as the Trinity hospital finishes its transition to the new facility and what do we do with all those buildings downtown and the impact that it’s going to have culturally and economically on the downtown area and the community as a whole,” he said. “The other one that has some concern for me would be the residential areas around the river that will be in the flood plain. Most of those houses are having difficulty selling and transitioning. A lot of them are being repaired by homeowners, but a lot of the homeowners are taking out second mortgages to do that. Eventually the flood insurance is going to be having an impact there as well. You can see a stark difference in housing prices between what’s in the flood plain and was not in the flood plain. And so, my concern going forward is how do we have an active plan to keep that area vibrant and healthy so that it doesn’t deteriorate and become an area that has other issues and concerns and negative impacts for our community.”

Stewart sees a consensus among community and city leaders regarding the need for visioning and planning for the next 20 to 40 years.

“Minot is like every other community in the country. Resources are limited. So we need to really prioritize our wants and needs to make sure that we’re getting the biggest bang for the taxpayer dollar that we can,” he said. “But it’s very positive. There’s a great foundation built here for Minot to continue to grow and to have a sustainable future. So it’s very exciting to look forward and know the potential that’s there. Now it’s just a matter of doing our best to deliver on that potential the best we can.”

Stewart also wants the city to continue with its flood mitigation, resilience funding and downtown improvements.

However, Stewart said the city is positioned to begin turning attention to other matters as well. Because water and wastewater infrastructure improvements are in place, it will open the city to residential, commercial and industrial growth, he said.

Stewart, 44, believes he has the background and experience to help Minot make good decisions for future growth and maintaining current services.

“I’ve had great success building relationships and partnerships, which I think is crucial, and becomes more crucial as government continues to experience the financial pressures across the country. We’ve spent the last probably two decades trimming fat from local government budgets,” he said. “There’s not really a lot of fat to trim there anymore, in most instances. And so in order to find more effective ways to provide the services and the quality of services that citizens expect, the only way to do that is through partnership. That goes back to relationships. You have to have a healthy relationship if you’re going to partner and provide those services.”

He also has experience with economic development, which he said starts with growing and retaining existing businesses.

In Warrensburg, he helped the city partner with the local university and military base, making sure those entities remained viable and sustainable assets of the community.

“It’s more than just sitting down in a meeting and having a cordial relationship. It’s actually being very conscientious about what are the challenges coming forward and do we have a plan in place to address those challenges to make sure that those assets remain healthy,” he said.

“I also believe in a very transparent government,” Stewart said. “I want to be out and engaged in the community as much as I can. I want to be visible and transparent to the community.”

Stewart welcomes people to stop by City Hall to discuss their thoughts regarding the city. He can be emailed at harold.stewart@minotnd.org or reached by phone at 857-4750 or phone or text at 833-3860.

He also has been scheduling meetings with community leaders and hopes to join a service club as the COVID-19 pandemic eases. His family already is involved in school activities, and they will be getting involved in church activities and enjoy volunteer work.

In the meantime, Stewart has been making the rounds of various boards and commissions to introduce himself. What he wants the community to know is that he’s a fairly simple guy who enjoys people and respects diversity and differences of opinion.

“I enjoy interacting with people and actually, I think that’s probably one of my strengths as a city manager. I do want to connect with as many people as I possibly can because I think that helps me have a better feel and idea of the needs and the wants of the community and the challenges it is facing so we can make better decisions,” he said.

His goal is to be part of making a better and stronger Minot, he said.

“I believe in Minot’s future. I believe the potential is there and I believe I have the skills necessary at this time to help Minot achieve that potential,” he said. “Minot is not a resume-building step for me. I’m fully committed to Minot. I love Minot. It’s why I conscientiously chose to come back to Minot. So because of my love for Minot, I want to make it the best I can for as long as I’m the best person to help Minot do that.”

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