Editor’s note: This address was delivered by the author at the Jan. 11 Chanhassen City Council meeting.

Happy New Year Chanhassen. It is great to be back and I look forward to the year ahead.

First, I’d like to welcome back Councilman Dan Campion, who is entering his seventh year on City Council. I’d also like to extend a welcome and congratulations to our two newest council members, Lucy Rehm and Haley Schubert. It is great to have you both on board, and I look forward to a successful time on City Council together.

When I began preparing my remarks a few weeks ago, the focus was on Chanhassen’s 2021 plans and to revisit my “5Cs”: “Communication. Collaboration. Commitment to Excellence. Community. Chanhassen.”

And while these pillars remain a priority and will be communicated in the weeks to come, my address tonight, at this moment in time, needed redirection. In the back of my mind, there was something bigger to discuss. I needed to first acknowledge what has been elevated to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

There is a different tone in the world today. While this City Council was elected to focus on issues that affect the residents of Chanhassen, we are acutely aware that Chanhassen is in a county, a state, and country, and what happens at each level of government directly impacts us as a city.

The reality of what we have faced this last year has been sometimes challenging and frustrating, scary and sad, with seemingly a few bright spots along the way. From a global pandemic and lockdowns, riots in Minneapolis and other cities, with the fears of that destruction coming to Chanhassen, the closing of businesses, the devastating loss of life of family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, a contentious election season, and horrifically, the events that unfolded at our nation’s Capitol last week, has left many, including myself, in disbelief.

So, it begs the question, how do we move forward? It’s an important question that I hope all elected officials at every level of government take a moment to reflect on, because that pause will allow us to prioritize or reprioritize the commitment we made to our constituents when we first ran for office.

Six years ago, when I was running for City Council, and again two years ago when running for mayor, my campaign slogan and commitment, was to “Listen. Learn. Lead.” These three words carry great significance to me, and I think these words matter more today than they ever have before.

LISTEN

Listen. First and foremost, it is our job as elected officials to listen. Not only to the loudest voices, not only to those who campaigned for you or voted for you, but more importantly, listen to what is being said as well as what isn’t; listen to those who may have felt marginalized; listen to those who disagree or have differing opinions.

Take the time to listen and really listen. Not to appease, but to understand.

When people are listened to by those who were elected to represent them, they become part of the decision-making process. They know that their input was considered. Their voices were heard.

At a time, where people wonder if they are being heard, or for those who feel shut out of the process or powerless against government, taking the time to listen must be a priority.

I am again renewing my pledge to you our residents, as well as to my fellow council members and city staff. I am committed to listening to you.

LEARN

Learn. Through listening, we then have the opportunity to learn. Over the past six years, I have learned from residents who present differing views; from my fellow council members who sit on the opposite side of an issue; and from our knowledgeable city staff and my fellow colleagues.

Your experiences and positions often shed a different light on a subject providing me with an alternative viewpoint. You have brought forward ideas and perspective that may not have been previously considered, but helped shape a path to compromise.

I have grown as a mayor and as a person because of what I have learned from those around me. Taking the time to listen and learn from each other, the issues that once seemed insurmountable result in a more well-rounded, comprehensive solution.

We should never stop learning nor should we think we have all of the answers. I am committed to continue to learn from each one of you.

LEAD

Lead. By listening and learning, I become a more effective leader. Leadership is not a title, rather a responsibly and one I take seriously.

Words matter. Actions matter. But above all else, leadership is about showing respect for one another. Leadership isn’t about what I want, what my idea is, or what direction I want to go. It is about bringing people together to share ideas, have robust debate, and then work together towards a solution.

Unilateral power is not a pathway forward at any level of government — teamwork, compromise, and the shared desire to find the best result for the people you represent must always be the goal. My commitment is for us to continue to collaborate on challenging topics and do so in a respectful manner.

WE CAN DO BETTER

Listen. Learn. Lead. How do these priorities correlate to what is happening across other communities, states, and our nation? Why do these things matter at this point in time? Because I think we can do better.

I’m not telling you how to live your lives, rather I am encouraging you to hold elected officials accountable by insisting that we work together. Chanhassen city councils, past and present, do work together; we don’t always agree or get the result we want, but we are committed to figuring it out together.

That approach must be done on a state and national level. And so, my hope is that we as a community can be an example for others to follow. By taking the time to listen to each other more openly; learn from each other’s experiences, we can lead a pathway forward for others to follow and demonstrate that government is truly by the people and for the people.

I have said many times that Chanhassen is a special place to live. And while we are in the midst of some very challenging times, I have never been more motivated to work together as I remain optimistic about the future of Chanhassen.

We have a multitude of important decisions that need to be made in 2021, we will undergo strategic and financial planning, and development will continue to grow and shape this community.

We are a piece of the bigger puzzle of government, but what remains true is that the city of Chanhassen is at the center.

We are stronger when we collaborate, communicate, are committed to excellence, and focus on building community as we celebrate Chanhassen being an outstanding community to live.

By doing this, I have no doubt that we will have a successful 2021. Thank you.

Elise Ryan is the mayor of Chanhassen.

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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