Beussman intent on promoting New Ulm
NEW ULM — Robert Beussman has served as mayor of New Ulm for eight years and is seeking re-election to a third term.
He is a native of Springfield. He came to New Ulm to student teach and was offered a job here. He taught in New Ulm until retirement.
Beussman served in the military part of the Psychological Operations Group in Vietnam. After retirement, Beussman worked for Kemske Computer and Skillings Technology. He was asked to run for mayor eight years ago.
Beussman said before he was mayor it was suggested he run for council president, but he did not feel he was right for that position.
“I love talking to people,” he said. “If you’ve got a question, I’ll find [an answer], whether it was in the school, computer related or now city government.”
Beussman said another reason he felt it was time to run for mayor was the city code was being modified. The change made it so the mayor could no longer hire or fire the police chief.
“I was so happy they were planning on taking that out of the mayor’s duties, because I felt that the police chief, sergeant, commander or any job in the city deserves the same procedure,” he said. “I don’t believe one person should have the ability to fire city staff. We deserve a process.”
Beussman felt no employee could work under those conditions, where they had appease the mayor or risk losing a job.
Beussman emphasized that in New Ulm, the authority granted to the mayor is different from the mayors of other communities in Minnesota. He described New Ulm’s system as “weak mayor, strong council.” The New Ulm mayor does not vote with the council or influence the agenda.
Beussman read the bylaws, which state “the mayor shall study the operation of the city government and shall report to the council any neglect, dereliction of duty or waste on the part of the official or any department of the city.”
Beussman said this is why he attends as many commission meetings as possible, because this is his top duty other than representing the city ceremonially and being a public relations expert for the community.
Beussman feels public relations is a big part of the mayor’s job. He’s there to promote the city and the local businesses.
“I’ll be there to help you to promote it,” he said. “I’ll be there for the ribbon cutting, but I’ll be there talking about it, saying to people, ‘ladies and gentleman, we have a new store.'”
Asked what he wanted to accomplish if elected to another term, Beussman said he wanted Highway 14 completed. His stance of finishing Highway 14 is well documented.
“I am not done with Highway 14 because it is not done yet,” he said. “I don’t know if we will be able to get it in four years, but we’re close. Now we are just waiting for money.”
Beussman is excited the New Ulm Gateway project is taking care of the city’s most dangerous intersection. Beussman said when it started, the Gateway project was going to be two four lane bridges, but after speaking with MNDoT the project became a two lane with an option for extra lanes being added at a later time.
“I feel we have made a tremendous improvement to the safety to coming in and out of New Ulm, at least on 14/15.”
Other important issues are keeping taxes down while maintaining New Ulm’s system.
“Right now these parks are becoming expensive to maintain,” Beussman said. “Hermann Heights is becoming expensive. Looks like a huge amount of money for a hillside.”
“I volunteered to be a part of the committee that looks at the restoration of the Hermann hillside,” he said. “The amount of money that is being thrown out there saying ‘this is what it is going to cost’ is really scary to me and very scary to a good percent of the population, especially if we’re going to tear it up in a few years.”
Beussman hopes the current hillside can remain in place until the other changes are made at Hermann. This committee is made up of people who are dedicated to Hermann and he hopes the overall cost can be brought down to something more palatable.
Beussman is excited over the work being done with RENU. RENU stands for Reinvest in New Ulm, an effort to fund local projects with a local sales tax. Beussman has faith in the RENU Oversight Committee’s efforts to eliminate redundancy and wasted money. Beussman said the need to monitor costs was important because of taxes escalating in New Ulm. Beussman said taxes cannot move up too much, but with other costs going up, taxes may have to rise a little.
“The mayor does have the opportunity to veto bills passed by the council,” he said. However, the problem is the current council typically votes unanimously on bills, meaning a veto could easily be overturned.
Another recent issue facing New Ulm is the potential loss of the holiday garland display.
“I am hoping we can keep the tradition of the garland going,” Beussman said. “Traditions are important. Without them we lose everything and we become just another city.”
Asked why he is the best person for the job, Beussman said he didn’t know if he was the best, but he has the experience. His job as a teacher prepared him for the office.
He explained parents were always concerned about how their student was doing in class and Beussman tried to answer every question that came up in a positive way. This skill has carried over into his job as mayor.
Over the last eight years, people have come to his office with concerns or questions about the city government. Beussman said it is his duty to help give them the facts.
“If there is an issue, follow up on the issue and ask if their questions were answered,” he said. “Most people like that when people follow up.”
Beussman said he has been able to resolve situations where a citizen arrives angry, but leaves smiling with their concern addressed or answered.
Beussman said more often he receives phone calls from citizens who want clarification on an action the city is taking.
“Sometimes it’s a phone call where they are just double-checking their sources,” he said. “They realize I will give them a straight answer to the best of my abilities, and if I do not know the answers, I will find the answer and get back to them.”
Beussman welcomes phone calls from citizens because it is important to be available. He wants to give correct information before a false story can spread.
In addition to his time as mayor, Beussman has 33 years of experience with the Concord Singers, but retired from the Singers to focus on mayoral duties. He still plays with the Bockfest Boys when able.
He has been married for over 50 years, is the father of three children and a grandfather of three.
Eight years after first running for mayor, Beussman still enjoys the job and would be honored to continue serving.
“New Ulm is a great town. I like to tell people that and as mayor I get the opportunity,” he said. “I want voters to know I’ll do anything I can do for New Ulm.”