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Minnetonka Will Ask Former Mayor Bergstedt To Fill In For Council Member

James Hiller, who represents Ward 4, has been unable to attend council meetings for more than 90 days because of illness.

James Hiller
James Hiller
The Minnetonka City Council will appoint a council member to fill in for James Hiller in Ward 4.

Hiller has been unable to attend council meetings for more than 90 days– since mid-August– because of illness. He has requested that the city council consider a temporary appointment. 

Many of the council members at Monday's meeting wished Hiller well and a quick recovery before deciding to appoint someone for the remainder of his unexpired term or until he is again able to resume his duties and attend council meetings, whichever is earlier. There are 2 years left on the term. Hiller will remain updated by email on issues facing the city.

Only the temporary council member will be paid during the time the person serves. The appointee must live in Ward 4.

Mayor Terry Schneider suggested the council ask Tim Bergstedt, a resident of Ward 4 and a former mayor of the city of Minnetonka. Because the time frame of the appointment could be 2 months, 2 years or anything in between, Schneider suggested they meet with Bergstedt to discuss the appointment after a year. Bergstedt, who is trying to take on less responsibility these days, may be concerned with serving the full 2-year term, Schneider said.

"There are some other potential candidates," Schneider said. "But none of them come close to the level of experience or credibility that Tim has. Because when you've been mayor and to the planning commission and everything else, things have changed but the process really hasn't. I think he would do an excellent job."

At-large Council Member Dick Allendorf said he agrees with the qualifications of Bergstedt, but he hesitates at reviewing the position after a year.

"If we put a one-year time frame on it, then we could go through the process again," he said. "I'd like to have the council discuss if we can just say, 'Tim, can you do 2 years?' It could be six months, it could be a year." 

City Manager Geralyn Barone told the council that there was really no need to set forth a formal one-year review if Bergstedt was appointed because really he could resign whenever he wants to, like any council member. Barone said they can plan to have an informal discussion in a year (if Hiller isn't back) to see how it's going.

"I think the most critical thing here is to have a process that's fast to get Ward 4 representation," said council member Tony Wagner, of Ward 2. "At the end of the day, get someone who doesn't have a steep learning curve. Nothing can replace experience."

Wagner said he's only met Bergstedt once, but he trusts the judgement of council members who know him.

Under Section 1.04 of the City Charter, the city may exercise any power given to statutory cities unless that power is specifically prohibited by the charter. The charter does not prohibit appointments to fill temporary city council vacancies resulting from illness, according to city documents.

The city council declared the vacancy in Ward 4, and Mayor Schneider will informally ask Bergstedt fill in. He could begin on the council as early as January.

If he declines, the council will have to come up with a Plan B.
Steven December 03, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Councilman Hiller has done a fabulous job representing the citizens of Minnetonka. Hopefully this will only be a short absence. No one has worked harder to keep Minnetonka one of the most livable cities in Minnesota. He has a brilliant mind and his insight is unmatched. Prayers and positive thoughts for a speedy and complete recovery to you Mr. Hiller.

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