Editor's note: Mayor-Elect Matt Little was inaugurated and given the oath of office on Jan. 10. The following is the speech he prepared and read at the event. Minnesota Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea administered the oath to Little.
Thank you, Madame Chief Justice, Mr. City Administrator, City Council Members, and, most of all, my family and supporters.
I am honored and humbled to accept the oath of office as Mayor of Lakeville. And before I begin, I want to take a moment to thank Mayor Bellows and Councilmember Laurie Rieb for their dedicated years of service to our city. I know both of them will stay involved with Lakeville, and I look forward to working with them in the future.
Being elected to public office anywhere, in any position, is a remarkable responsibility, but to be elected mayor of my own hometown is a special privilege that energizes and motivates me.
I think most of us carry our hometowns with us in our hearts, and in our mind’s eye we hold an idealized vision of that American icon: the town square. Now, I know we don’t have an actual town square here in Lakeville and I’m not proposing that we build one. In fact, very few towns are built that way now days, but the idea of the town square is woven deep into the fabric of our country. So, in an essential way: Lakeville does have a town square, we’ve created it, in our minds and our hearts To some people that may seem like empty nostalgia, but it’s pretty important to me… because even though Lakeville has become a big city, I still want to be a small town mayor.
In my mind’s eye, when I look around Lakeville’s figurative town square, I see a place filled with small businesses and local owners. I see TR’s barbershop over there the Ben Franklin on the other side, and Mainstreet Café up a little way on Holyoke. Holyoke is our main street, of course.
I also see churches anchoring the town square, holding community dinners and reaching out to people in need. And, right around here I see City Hall; over there the Fire Station and the Police Station, where you can stop by and pet Zeus and Tank, our town’s neighborhood police dogs. Just a short walk away is the Library, the Post Office and the school buildings surrounded by playgrounds and baseball fields.
Naturally, in the center of our town square, is a park; and for us, it’s Pioneer Plaza where we can read about and gain inspiration from leaders of our past. The park is the center because it’s where people come together… for celebrations or picnics or just to talk, or maybe to talk about how we can make our town even better.
You see, in our ideal town square, every organization, every person, has a job to do and role to play, in the right balance; at the right times. So it’s not about extremes or ideology; it’s not “all or nothing,” “my way or no way.” And when we disagree, which we will and we should, then we’ll work it out. We’ll get a cup of coffee at the Cafe or sit down in the Park (when it’s warmer) and we’ll talk it out. Because that’s how we’ve always done it in our town square. People in Lakeville, like most Americans, are practical, we’re reasonable, we like to get things done.
Now, at about this time in the speech, if I were you, I’d be thinking that Matt’s getting pretty sentimental in his old age. But our town square doesn’t have to be stuck in the past. We can build a virtual town square; where we watch council meetings online, discuss critical budget items on Twitter, and on Facebook we can talk trash about Eden Prairie football.
Of course, I don’t mean we stop talking face-to-face, person-to-person. That’s the heart of what makes our town square great. Besides we can do both. We’ll still talk in the checkout lines at Cub; meet our neighbors at barbeques during national night out, and trade Pan-O-Prog stories over breakfast at the Buckboard. By blending both approaches, we can keep our town square alive and well in 2013. We can bring Norman Rockwell into the 21st Century.
And that’s important, because I believe in Lakeville’s past and Lakeville’s future. We can grow a bigger and better city, without losing our small town heart. To do that, the people in our town square need to work together to solve problems. Fortunately, we share a broad consensus about that future and everyone has a part to play. Everyone has a role in creating jobs and increasing economic growth. Everyone has a role in ensuring that we have a safer and stronger community. And each of us has a role in making sure that city hall is responsive, efficient, and effective.
If we all work together, we WILL build a better Lakeville. And as Mayor, I look forward to working with our city council, city staff, and most importantly, all of you, to make this vision of Lakeville’s 21st Century Town Square, a reality. In the last 28 years Lakeville has gone from a town of around 20,000 people to a vibrant city of over 56,000. So you could say, in a way, that Lakeville, like it’s mayor, is all grown up. In fact, Lakeville and I have grown up together. But even though Lakeville’s a big city now, it is still my profound honor to serve as your small town mayor.