Ken Tracy and FDR

Ken Tracy celebrates his victory on Election Night, June 5. (Chris Huber/Republic)

Ken Tracy has been mayor of Mitchell for 77 days.

You’re forgiven if it seems much longer. Tracy has been a busy man, and Mitchell has seen a truly amazing run of activity. Monday night, the City Council authorized issuing $13.9 million in bonds for four major projects that could impact the city for decades.

Since Tracy took office after winning a six-candidate race for mayor, steps have been taken to expand and improve the Corn Palace, build an impressive new city hall at the south entry to downtown, add a second sheet of ice at the Mitchell Activities Center, as well as expanding and updating the Mitchell Public Library.

That’s where the $13.9 million will go, and almost assuredly more than that.

The city will have 25 years to pay it back at a very low interest rate. Other projects are coming off the books, sales tax revenue is on pace for a record year and studies are to be released next week on how to provide more housing while disclosing how Mitchell and area residents earn their incomes.

A building boom is predicted by the chamber’s top official, Bryan Hisel, who also said more jobs are being added to the city economy.

Tracy, a retired state employee, was a council veteran before filling the mayor’s chair after Lou Sebert retired from public life. Sebert served two terms marked in the end by public rejections of city decisions, including adding a city manager, converting three streets to two-way traffic, and offering off-sale alcohol on Sundays.

Of course, big steps on these projects were taken and the city’s finances improved despite a rocky time in the national economy. Give Sebert credit for manning the helm when that happened. But Tracy has taken control and led the council, and the city, have no doubt of that.

During the campaign, Tracy, 65, said he was ready for the promotion and the challenge. Since he became mayor, he has teamed with Council President Jeff Smith, whom he has known and worked with for years, the rest of the council and an experienced city staff to create all these plans and progress. It’s one of the most vital periods in city history.

Oh, and Tracy also showed up during the Traffic Commission meeting before the start of the council meeting Monday to call for a ban on texting and driving in the city. Smith then asked to have it added it to the commission agenda for Oct. 15.

That’s all. There hasn’t been any proposals to pave Main Street with corn-colored squares, double the size of Lake Mitchell or annex Mount Vernon.

Yet. I’ll check on those in the morning.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt took dramatic action when he was sworn in as president in 1933. Since then, presidents are always assessed on what they accomplish in their first 100 days.

Tracy still has 23 days to go. What’s next?

Drawing up Mitchell’s wards

Dive in. Mitchell’s population is headed to the lake.

There are four wards in the city and Ward 4, the one that surrounds Lake Mitchell, is growing, which means it needs to shrink. I’ll explain.

The city is required to keep the four wards as close in population as possible and the Mitchell City Council is working to ensure that happens. Monday night, the council approved an option to take nine blocks from Ward 4 and shift it to Ward 3.

Here’s the story on Monday night’s meeting.

According to the census count from April 2010, there are/were 15,254 people in the city. Each ward has between 3,700 and 3,900 people in it and each ward is represented by two members of the eight-member council.

While Ward 4 is gaining people, Wards 1 and 2 in the southern end of the city remain largely unchanged in population while Ward 3, in northeast Mitchell, is losing population. It seems people want to live by the lake and who can blame them?

City Planner Neil Putnam worked with Mayor Lou Sebert and Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson to draft two options for the revised ward boundaries. Putnam and Wilson also worked on the lines in 2001 after the 2000 census, since it’s that 10-year count that sparks the effort each decade.

Putnam said it seems very likely Ward 4 will continue to gain people as more dwellings, from houses to multi-family units to apartments are constructed in the north end of Mitchell. That means as Ward 4 grows in people, it must get smaller in size.

“So see you in 10 years,” the ever-cheerful Putnam told me after the council meeting. “Mark it down.”

If the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee needs a project, here’s an idea …

I picked up the glass shards and the rusty nail pictured here during a recent visit to Mitchell's Sandy Beach.

My wife and two kids and I visited Lake Mitchell’s Sandy Beach on Saturday.

Immediately upon our arrival, I noticed glass shards in the sand. That was concerning, because we were all barefoot. Looking around a little more, I realized the shards were not isolated to where we were standing. They were everywhere.

In a span of about five minutes, I collected all of the glass shards pictured above — plus the rusty nail — in an area no bigger than 10 feet in diameter.

Not wanting our kids to end up with cuts in their feet, we left right away.

The Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee has been very active and has done some great things since its creation a few years ago. I hope the committee will see this post and take some action to clean up Sandy Beach.

How high’s the water?

Weather continues to be a major story in southeast South Dakota. According to the National Weather Service, Thursday night’s storm means this is the wettest July on record in Mitchell.

The forecast calls for rain on and off for the next two weeks. There a lot of reasons, but basically it’s a soggy summer.

This will mean flooding along the James River, Firesteel Creek and Lake Mitchell this weekend. We will see crests Sunday morning as some of the rain that fell north of Mitchell flows here.

Got your short pants, hip waders and boots handy? Tied up the boat on the lake? Sump pump handy? Here it comes … again. 

Park land or preserving trees

A petition submitted to the city Monday calls for voting on converting three pieces of city-owned land deemed surplus property near Lake Mitchell into park land. Right now, it looks headed to the Nov. 2 ballot.

‘This would cap development by the lake and also save a stand of trees that were at the center of a fiery public debate in late 2009 and early 2010. How do you feel about this proposal?