In ascension to Richfield mayor, Elliott benefits from good timing

Pat Elliott
Pat Elliott

Pat Elliott will make the jump from Richfield City Councilmember to mayor as long-planned projects in the city are poised to bear fruit, but he knows his predecessors will deserve much of the credit.

The Richfield native prevailed over opponent Dan Oxendale in a special election March 7, taking about 79 percent of the vote, for a count of 851 to Oxendale’s 207 votes. Elliott will replace Acting Mayor Michael Howard, who took over for Debbie Goettel after she was elected to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners last November.

Elliott might have the honor of presiding over the fruition of highly-anticipated projects such as the Lyndale Gardens redevelopment, the 77th Street underpass at Cedar Avenue and the reconstruction of 66th Street. At the same time, he acknowledged that credit for such transformations can sometimes be just a matter of good timing.

Take the Richfield Municipal Center that was completed in 2011, for instance.

“I happened to be walking into the new city hall after not doing anything to get it started and get it completed, but my name ended up on the wall,” Elliott said. “ … I have to give credit to the people who really did the hard lifting and the heavy lifting to get it where it is today.”

Elliott was two months into his third four-year term as the Ward 1 Richfield City councilmember when he was elected as mayor last week.

He said he will work under the theme “that over the last couple years, a lot of the things the city’s been working on for a long time are kind of coming to a head.”

Elliott is well aware his widening purview as he oversees all the action.

“Believe it or not, I actually thought about that quite a bit,” he said.

He now has more constituents to consider when making decisions. When he opposed the removal of 18 homes in his ward for the reconstruction of 66th Street, he had his west-side constituents in mind.

But as mayor, he said, “you’ve gotta broaden your perspective to really serve your constituency.”

Dan Oxendale
Dan Oxendale

A political newcomer

Elliott’s opponent for mayor also had his perspective broadened as he joined the race. Having heard from voters during his campaign, Oxendale said what probably surprised him the most was “the actual involvement that there is in our city already,” as evidenced by how many people contacted him via email or social media.

Hearing their concerns forced Oxendale to take stances on issues he said he had not weighed. In particular, low-income housing came up came up as a particular area of worry.

“There were a lot of folks who voiced a lot of concerns about too much low-income housing in Richfield,” Oxendale said.

When he filed his candidacy for mayor, he was a largely unknown commodity in Richfield. It was his first time running or public office.

“I definitely could see myself in the future running for public office in Richfield,” Oxendale said.

That could be as soon as this spring, he added, when Ward 1 voters will decide on a replacement for Elliott’s seat on the council. That election will likely occur Tuesday, June 6, according to City Clerk Elizabeth VanHoose.

Following the election, Elliott had encouraging words for his opponent, saying he wants “to call him and tell him that it was great that he joined the race. … I would certainly welcome his joining in and getting involved.”

Elliott planned to only serve out the remainder of Goettel’s mayoral term when he filed for candidacy.

“Conceptually, that was my intent,” he said. But he added, “Never say never.”

Whatever his decision, he wants to make it early, “so people can really gear up, and we have a competitive race for mayor the next time around.”

Elliott expects to be sworn in as mayor at the March 28 Richfield City Council Meeting.

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.