New mayor

Heidi Gunderson, left, is sworn in as mayor by City Administrator Kevin Watson at the Vadnais Heights City Council meeting Jan. 8.

Mayor Heidi Gunderson said she received a blank stare from someone from a southern Twin Cities suburb when she said she was going to be the mayor of Vadnais Heights.

“Up by White Bear Lake,” Gunderson said. Now the southern dweller knew where she was talking about.

Gunderson hopes to change that by increasing the city's prominence through marketing and communication. “I would like to increase our city being known,” she said. “How do we partner with residents, as well as the business community, to increase our marketing of Vadnais Heights to continue to get people to know where we are on the map?”

She said she wants to encourage new businesses and residents to come and live in the city. She also hopes to increase communication with current residents through social media and other technologies.

Gunderson said she wants to the City Council to develop an updated strategic plan.

“Once we get the fifth member of the council in place, I'd like to go through the strategic planning process — a longer-term vision with measurable goals.” She hopes to use the plan as an ongoing tool to measure the city's progress. She hopes the council can come together on joint initiatives “in a more proactive fashion than maybe was done in the past.” Gunderson also hopes to have a budgeting workshop with staff and council members so they can better help with planning the city's long-term budgeting and know how to explain the city's levy.

Gunderson joined the council two years ago. She said she was interested in running for mayor when she completed her first four-year term. But when then-mayor Bob Fletcher announced last spring that he was running for sheriff, she figured someone from the current council should step up and run.

She thought the city would be best served by someone who had some experience in how city government works. “I was a little naive when I first looked into the role as a council person,” Gunderson said. “It is a much bigger learning curve than I had anticipated.” When she learned none of the other current council members were interested in the mayor position, she decided she could take it on earlier than anticipated.

One of the most important things she has learned over the last two years is how to listen to every resident but not promise to be everyone's voice.

“In the end, you have to make the decision you think is best for the city as whole,” she noted. “I try to make my mission listening to people, learning facts and making decisions I think best.”

She appreciates learning what makes someone passionate about an issue and hopes everyone believes that even if she doesn't agree with them, she will listen to them, do her homework and make a rational decision.

Gunderson was born in Vadnais Heights and attended Vadnais Heights Elementary School. She remembers when horses used to roam where Target and Walmart now sit. She loves that Vadnais Heights still has a small-town feel even after a lot of growth. She has lived in Vadnais Heights a total of 30 years.

Gunderson is the president and co-owner of a union construction company, Woody’s Rebar Company Inc., headquartered in Vadnais Heights. It installs reinforcing steel for industrial and commercial projects in Minnesota and four surrounding states.

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