By Robert Willams


After a two decade absence from his first stint on the city council, Jim Rader was the top vote getter during November’s general election and brings a history of getting things done to the seat he will take in January with Vice Mayor Mike Sharp, Mayor-Elect Mark Flemmer and Andrea Froeber, the second highest vote getter on the new council.

“The initial experience was good,” Rader said. “I often think that people need to kind of put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. You see things that you think can be improved on, rather than sitting back and just complaining about it, try to get involved and do something about it.”

Rader’s election was a popular one and he’s heard about it since the election concluded.

“I’ve had a lot of phone calls already, emails and people coming up to me at the cafe,” he said. “It’s been unbelievable. My wife is like, ‘it’s back again, isn’t it?’ It is.”

Ironically, it was Jim’s wife Jill who encouraged him to run again.

“There were some people that asked me if I would ever run again and I was always, nah, I did that. As my father said a long time ago, ‘you served your sentence; everybody should run once,’” Rader laughed.

In talking with Jill, she reminded Jim of the good things that happened the last time he was on the council two decades ago.

“It’s not because of me; I think it’s more timing than anything,” he said. “I was fortunate that I was on at a time when Red Willow Heights was being established as a new housing development in town. That turned out to be a pretty good success. We had some downtown businesses that we got started. I had people that just contacted me about purchasing lots from the city downtown and that happens to be where Joe’s Barber Shop is located today and the Backyard Station and we kind of got the ball rolling with that. We created a partnership with MMCDC (Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation) to build what’s considered our industrial park in town. There were a lot of good things that were happening at the time, but we had a lot of people involved on the council at that time and the mayor that were all very, very pro-business and that helped.”

Rader was also personally involved in getting Department of Natural Resources grants that brought the fishing pier and boat landing to Town Lake Beach.

However, Rader’s eye is on the future of town and how he can impact positive change in his roles on council and in committees.

“I think there are a lot of good people in this town that would like to see some future success too,” he said. “I don’t have the answers for a lot of that stuff. Sometimes you have to get the information, talk to people and find out – what do we need to do to make this happen? One thing will lead to another and sometimes you get ‘er done.”

Rader has also kept his eye on projects that are currently in the works.

“I’d like to see the group that started the Cornerstone project make a final push and get Cornerstone completed,” he said. “I think they’ve got a really good vision for kids. Sports did that for a long time for a lot of kids but there are a lot of kids who aren’t involved in sports and what’s the outlet for them? If they’re not in FFA or football, basketball or wrestling, or whatever, there’s got to be some type of venue for these kids.”

Much like Froeber, Rader is coming to council with a wealth of positivity.

“We’re all one community tied together,” he said. “Positive energy will go so much farther than the negative.”

That sentiment comes from Rader’s history growing up in Frazee and being around very memorable names and the influence of those people, one being legendary basketball coach Dennis Anderson.

“I think back and I was just a youngster when Denny Anderson came here and Denny always talked about positive attitude all the time,” said Rader. “You’ve got to have a positive attitude. I remember hearing that message and as I was getting a little bit older, I heard him say something else that made it sink in for me. He said, ‘a negative attitude is just like cancer. Cancer destroys everything around it. That’s what a negative attitude does too.’ You get those negative people, those negative voices, all they do is tear down.”

Rader is bringing that mindset to city hall.

“You have to be positive because that’s what your job is,” he said. “You have to be looking at how can you build up the downtown? If you tear it down you’re not doing any good.”

Rader shares a big push for positive change with his fellow new council member Froeber, who spoke at length about the topic. Both candidates also agree that the open spot on council, vacated when Flemmer was elected mayor, should go to the next vote getter, which would be current councilman Mark Kemper. 

The new council will appoint a candidate to fill the opening, have that person agree to it, and 3 of the 4 members must vote in favor of that individual The appointed position would be up for election at the next election cycle

“It should really be a reflection of the will of the voters,” said Rader. “The fact of the matter is, there’s a third opening now. Candidate number three should get the first opportunity. Whether he’s willing to do it or not, we’ll see. To just randomly go out and make an appointment, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. It would be different if this was to happen a year down the road. With the election, as close as it was, the proper thing would be to offer it to Kemper.”

Rader has already spoken to Flemmer and both men are looking forward to working together.

“I feel the same about everybody,” said Rader. “I look forward to working with everybody for the betterment of the town, period. That’s what my goal is. I don’t have any axe to grind with anybody. I just want to do what I can to help.”

Flemmer’s move to mayor does open up a council liaison spot with the economic development authority, something Rader has experience in and a desire to continue.

“It’s going to be more information than anything to start with,” he said. “I have to wait and see what my options are for committee assignments. I would like to be involved with economic development; that’s kind of what I did in the past. I feel strongly about it. If this community is going to grow and prosper it’s going to start with pulling some businesses into town. We need to get some buildings filled up. We’ve got to make that downtown look vibrant again. Once it gets to that point it’s kind of self-sustaining then. I can remember when this town was hoppin’ pretty good.”