Back in 2009 and 2010 the Willmar City Council meetings were a popular show on WRAC 8 in Willmar. The council was split on whether to allow the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership to build some low income housing in southwest Willmar, and every two weeks you never knew what would happen...there were vetos by Mayor Les Hietike, public works plans for the year cancelled, and you even saw a group of council members walk out in the middle of a meeting. There were protests, appeals, scoldings, even threats of lawsuits, but in the end, the partnership was allowed to build the Westwinds Estates 3 Development. Later that fall, both Mayor Les Heitke and council member Steve Gardner were defeated by Westwinds opponents Frank Yanish and Tim Johnson. It appears that since that time, the new mayor and some council members have caused some headaches for Willmar City staff by asking questions and working to defeat some new policies and ordinances. Since that time, longtime City Administrator Michael Schmit retired to be replaced by Charlene Stevens. Other lower level staff members and employees have resigned and moved on, including Public Works Director Holly Wilson, and the head of Willmar Utilities Bruce Gomm was terminated. Now long-tenured City Councilman Doug Reese plans to leave the council to fill an empty spot on the Kandiyohi County Board, and two weeks ago, publicly confirmed what some people have been saying privately...that it hasn't been a pleasant working atmosphere at city hall. Reese said the constant questioning and second-guessing of staff is "demeaning" and that is likely why many people are leaving. As a mayor and city council, they were elected by the city's residents to make the decisions critical to running the city, and it's up to them to ask questions and be educated on the various issues. City staff, on the other hand, are elected by no one and are hired by the council and mayor. Maybe in the past, mayors and council members didn't ask a lot of questions, and the change in regime has been a shock. On the other hand, city staff members have gone to college and devoted their careers to certain, specialized areas and by most accounts, know what they are doing, while the mayor and council members might be a lawyer, or a garage owner, or run a construction company. I think as residents of the city, we look for results...are we getting the most bang for our tax dollars? Are the streets safe to walk? Are there jobs? Are the potholes being filled and the snow being plowed? Maybe we should look at city government like a hot dog....we don't want to know how it's made, we just want it to be good in the end. I think it might be a hard time in the short term at least for city staff with an active mayor and council, but the voters eventually have the final decision at the polls. If we keep losing good staff or if city hall grinds to a halt, they will look to make a change. But if things still continue to function like they should, well, city staff will have to get used to someone looking over their shoulder.