As we reflect on the end of 2021, it was a new normal with many accomplishments.

A couple of years ago the city adopted the Minnesota Green Steps Cities Program consisting of five steps and 29 best practices. We were a city already doing many of the suggested sustainable practices and follow a plan to do more. We encourage our residents to do the same. We know many are doing that already but we can always do better.

Perhaps you have noticed the Green Steps reminder signs on the city entrance streets, more LED lights and the electric vehicle charging stations at city hall. Goodwill and HyVee have had charging stations since they came to town. We encourage businesses to have them for their employees. Or even working from home one or two days reduces emissions along with walking to work to shop.

Speaking of walking, no matter what time of the day that I am out, I am gratified by the number of walkers that I see and how many dogs there are with them. Even in the winter, outdoors is good as being said by this winter person! (After all I am Norwegian.)

The skating rinks are open so skate, snowshoe the paths and slide down those hills. The dome is open for walking so walk in that cool brisk air and you might see me to chat. Conversations I have are usually questions like what is being built on 126th Street and Highway 13? That is a Holiday Gas Station to accommodate semi trucks. After all we do have the highest commercial truck traffic there due to the Ports of Savage.

We also are learning of the need for semi parking in our city. This is a metro issue also. Drivers can only drive so many hours and they are required to rest. I also hear that residents are pleased with the change to a fulltime/paid-on-call fire department model with response time cut nearly in half.

When I was at the Halloween Bash at the Dome, sponsored by the park recreation and natural resources department, I did talk to some adults who reminisced about going to the Halloween party at the fire station sponsored by the fire department when they were kids. It was one of their fondest memories along with the skating rinks. Many grow up and stay here. That says something about our city!

Incidentally we also hired Kathy Peil as assistant fire chief. She is the third woman on our fire department. The department had a record 948 calls in 2021. Our active fire department lets police respond to other calls for service.

I hope that you have driven by city hall at night and looked at our holiday tree. We had a huge crowd at the tree lighting and the police Toys for Tots collection drive. It was a beautiful night and we partnered with the library who ran out of 100 ornament kits for kids. There was music where they sang the lutefisk lament, had hot chocolate and elves dancing around the crowd.

I saw many families taking photos by the tree and looking at the Dan Patch brick mural on the police station wall. We need a sign there telling the story. Many stories need to be told.

In 2019 we started Community Conversations on Race. We are a welcoming community starting in 1940s when Camp Savage was created for Japanese American soldiers in WWII, our first doctor was from Ukraine and our first dentist from China. Both stayed their entire careers.

From our conversations we formed the REDI task force consisting of diverse residents to hear their stories and make recommendations to the city council. We are a fast-growing city as shown in our 2020 census when we gained over 5,000 residents with a median age of 34 years and an increase in our BIPOC residents.

We are partnering with the 719 School District and the cities of Prior Lake and Credit River, along with the township of Spring Lake, to host a Martin Luther King breakfast at the Prior Lake High School in Savage on Monday, Jan. 17 from 8-10 a.m.

The school district has scheduled, along with the cities, three Coffee and Conversations events. The November one was at the high school, the December one in Prior Lake and the third on Jan. 20 from 6-8 p.m. at the ELC in Savage. Everyone is welcome.

That is a good segue into the Placemaking Plan adopted by the city council in 2022. For the City of Savage, placemaking is the process of creating places, that enhance the livability of the community, foster community identity and pride and connect people to the history, culture and stories of the where they live. I believe that we are doing it but need to help focus. With a very busy public library and museum open every day the library is open, we are unique.

We have dedicated staff in all departments that I sometimes do not acknowledge. It takes all of them working together to make us who we are. Engineering did a great job with the road and park projects. They are fiscally responsible for saving us money on Canterbury Park and dealing with difficult road projects.

Staffing has been an issue with park and recreation as they try to staff the dome with open play and skating rink attendants. Police and fire could not get around without the work of public works staff getting the streets and sidewalks clean.

We continue to see growth in many new businesses and home remodeling. City hall staff is there to do background work and a great city council that works together to do the best for the residents. We saw the Loftus Farm resolved for the family. We liked the cows by the water tower. None of us like change but as a lifelong resident, where would we be without it?

Janet Williams is Savage’s mayor.