Vergas mayor has been on council for more than 30 years
By Barbie Porter
After more than 30 years serving in city government, Vergas Mayor Dean Haarstick adjourned his last monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Vergas City Clerk Julie Lammers didn’t let him go without a well-deserved pat on the back. She recalled many times of which he “went above and beyond to serve the community.”
“You were always a call away,” she said. “Thank you for all you’ve done for the city of Vergas.”
The council members also attested to the times Haarstick came through as a strong representative of the city, and thanked him for his commitment.
Haarstick’s Vergas roots date back to when he was three years old and his parents Willard and Arlene moved to a farm six miles west of Vergas. During his childhood, Haarstick watched his father become involved in the community as a township supervisor, a position he held for six years.
The 1968 Pelican Rapids High School graduate furthered his education at college and found his passion in fixing old tractors and vintage engines. He opened Vergas Ford in the summer of 1971.
During a lakes area gathering he found his true love. Haarstick married his wife Karen in 1986. By then Haarstick had become the go-to guy to call when an extra hand was needed. It was during one of those community events he was assisting at that someone suggested he run for council.
When he shared the idea with his wife, Haarstick found support. He ran, and served on the council for a decade.
“Being involved in government takes a lot of time,” Haarstick said. “Having family support is important because of that and I’d like to give my family a big thank you.”
The transition to mayor came about much like his service on the council—a recommendation from a friend.
“I was encouraged to give it a try,” he said. “I thought it was a place I could help the citizens of Vergas.”
The citizens agreed as Haarstick served as mayor the past 20 years. Being a community leader for decades has given Haarstick a historian’s view of the many changes the city has seen through the years. He said the major changes that really served the city well were developing a system and structure for daily operations of the city.
“It has also been helpful to know about and use outside resources for funds and guidance,” he said.
Some good changes were also challenges. Haarstick recalled when the city moved forward with installing a new water system, including a water plant, tower and all the underground structure that goes with it, there was some controversy, as some preferred to keep wells and private septic systems in place.
When dealing with controversial issues, Haarstick said his policy was to deal with them head on and take the time to understand both points of views.
“The Vergas citizens have been great to work with,’ he said.
In time the new infrastructure helped the town flourish as buildings and the city scape continued to show elements of a thriving community.
Another big boon to the community are its active citizens, Haarstick said. He applauded and thanked the individuals and groups that are willing to guide and help with projects that improve the community.
With so many tools in place for successes, Haarstick is appreciative of the time he spent as mayor, but was quick to point out the successes are not his doing—he is a member of a team that includes the council, community groups and the residents.
Julie Bruhn, who serves on the council, was elected as mayor with her term starting in January 2021. Haarstick commended Bruhn, noting she has a keen and thorough eye. When asked what advice he would offer her, Haarstick said, “Serve the wealthy, poor, old, young and everyone in-between and don’t be afraid to make the toughest informed decision.”
He encouraged the continued practice of seeking out people and organizations to collaborate with to achieve set goals, overcome obstacles and to gain knowledge.
“And always treat the visitors to the city as special guests,” he said.