At tomorrow’s meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, two new commissioners will be sworn in, replacing two sitting commissioners. One of them is Mike Potter, who has represented District 4 for the last eight years.
Potter lost a close election to challenger Mary Wetter in November. While he felt he had more to offer as a commissioner, he isn’t looking back and wondering “what if?” He feels he’s leaving the Wright County Board in a better position than he found it.
“It’s bittersweet,” Potter said. “There are a few more things I would have liked to have done, but it’s time. I’ve accomplished all the things I set out do when I came into office. I-94 is under construction. Our budgets have been stabilized and we’re better prepared to capture new growth to keep them stable. We have a Five-Year Plan. We have prepared for Capital Improvement Projects that we didn’t have before. Our infrastructure is set for the future. Most of the objectives I had when I came into office we have either completed or made a lot of progress to achieving those objectives.”
Potter’s legacy on the county board, aside from the numerous “Potterisms” – phrases and sayings that were a source of insight and amusement for his fellow commissioners – will be his devotion to transportation issues. As he was wont to say, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” – meaning you have to be part of the conversation or you’ll never have your concerns heard.
He served on many regional and state transportation boards, including being chairman at some time or another on almost all of them. His ability to get Wright County’s voice heard will serve as his permanent legacy.
“Transportation was one of the reasons I ran for the county board four times before I won,” Potter said. “That was my No. 1 focus without a doubt. I didn’t think we were doing nearly enough at the county level to get face to face with the decision makers at the state and federal level. If they don’t know about you, you’re not going to get on the list for future projects. I made a point to do a lot of that sort of networking. I did it on my own time because I felt strongly about it.”
When Potter joined the county board, he wasn’t alone as a new commissioner. Due to redistricting that shuffled the deck of who commissioners were representing, there were guaranteed to be big changes. Two of the new districts had two sitting commissioners pitted against one another. In the end, four new commissioners came on board at the same time – Potter, Charlie Borrell, Mark Daleiden and Christine Husom.
They were an eclectic group that came from vastly different backgrounds. That could have led to disarray on the county board. Instead, their differences are what made them blend so well together.
“We had our share of differing views that led to some 3-2 votes, but the big thing was that we all have a mutual respect for each other and, once a vote was done, nobody held a grudge over it if it didn’t come out the way you wanted,” Potter said. “We all brought something completely different to the table. I think our differences is what made it work for us. We could see an issue from completely different perspectives – sometimes with a view the rest of the commissioners hadn’t considered. We built friendships out of our differences and I think it made us work well as a group because we all had things we were passionate about and brought that to the conversation.”
Potter was instrumental in bringing Wright County “to the table” in issues dealing with transportation and operating the county like a business – looking at the long-term impacts of short-term decisions and viewing the budget/levy process as ongoing and not a year-to-year proposition that is re-set annually.
He leaves the board having served his district and the county as a whole with determination, enthusiasm and pride. Long after he is gone, his legacy will remain, whether it is the expansion of I-94 though the length of Wright County or spearheading the Local Option Sales Tax that has made numerous road projects possible that otherwise wouldn’t have been done.
“I’d like to think that my time on the board was one that benefitted the residents of Wright County,” Potter said. “I tried to be their voice on the county board and in the other groups I was involved in. When I was elected, I said I was going to work for my district and all the residents of Wright County. I can leave this job knowing I did my best to represent the people that put me here and don’t have any regrets about the last eight years. It was hard work, but I loved doing it and seeing the results.”