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Wolden receives Ludwig Award

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Mayor Wayne Wolden displays the League of Minnesota Cities C.C. Ludwig Award he received on June 16.

Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden was chosen for the 2011 C.C. Ludwig Award from the League of Minnesota Cities.

The award is given to elected officials or appointed officials every year in two categories: cities under 10,000 and cities over 10,000. The press release cited Wolden's leadership in the community following the June 17, 2010 tornado.

Wolden headed to Rochester to accept the award at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference. The award was given at the ceremony the morning of Thursday, June 16, but he returned to Wadena in time for the June Jubilee parade that same day.

City council member Don Niles had recommended Wolden and City Administrator Brad Swenson for the award.

Wolden said that the hardest part of tornado recovery for him was ironically not the immediate aftermath, but long-term issues. Some of those were dealing with federal and state agencies for assistance on turning the tornado-damaged corridor of Highway 10 into a four-lane and the southeast rail spur project, and also waiting on word from the Legislature about the wellness center project.

"Wadena has a table full of dominoes standing on edge right now," he said. "Any one of those tipping will help cause a chain reaction of events to be able to happen for our community."

He said a rail grant would spur business development on the former Peterson-Biddick property and help Leaf River Ag to rail in their fertilizer rather than relying on the old site. If they could vacate their old site, the proposed wellness center property would be secured.

Wolden said that small towns in greater Minnesota are struggling to find niches to carve out to sustain and grow their populations, but they are doing a great job improving their infrastructure and promoting business growth.

"I am hopeful that Wadena and our surrounding communities will maintain and also grow population. I am encouraged that we have job development prospects every week in Wadena," he said.

Wolden said it was great to see fellow board members at the conference since he had served on the League board from June 2008 to June 2010. "Ironically, my final board meeting was supposed to be the week after the tornado last year. I wasn't able to make it," he said. "They understood why I wouldn't be there."

Mayor H. Dan Ness of Alexandria presented the award, and Wolden said they had known each other for many years and had been on the boards of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and League of Minnesota Cities.

"I am very, very humbled and honored to receive this," Wolden said. "I've always really admired the award winners, as they've really done some special things for their community."

Wolden has been the mayor of Wadena since 1998, having run for an open spot after the previous mayor Jan Tubandt had retired.

Things could have been different: in 1996, he ran for the Minnesota House of Representatives after being on the Wadena city council from 1992 to 1996. He lost the election to then-incumbent Roxann Daggett.

If he was a representative instead of a mayor when the tornado hit, "I would have been as involved as Mark Murdock and Dan Skogen were. I have great admiration for both of them for how hard they tried to assist Wadena and the area," he said. "I saw those two every day in Wadena for at least two weeks."

He chalked his decision to run in 1996 as having a hard time saying "no" because there was no one else running against Daggett.

Wolden said he was asked to be the second vice president on the League of Minnesota Cities board of directors, but he declined because Wadena still has a lot going on with recovery and he is busy with his job as business manager at M State.

"It was an honor to be asked, but this is one of the first times I've said no to something," he said.

Wolden has been the business manager at M State since 1993. He has lived in Wadena since 1982, when he was an accounting student at M State - then called Wadena A.V.T.I. He said the reason for moving to town was that his girlfriend Lori was majoring in the cosmetology program. They have been married since 1983.

The C.C. Ludwig winner for cities of population 10,000 or more was Mayor Sandy Martin of Shoreview.

According to the League of Minnesota Cities press release, the C.C. Ludwig Award is named in honor of a former League executive director, and is considered to be the League's highest honor for elected officials. Established in 1962, the award is given annually in celebration of outstanding service. Recipients are chosen for their vision, statesmanship and unwavering commitment to the public good.

Judges for the 2011 C.C. Ludwig awards were Jane McPeak, associate professor for the School of Business, Public & Nonprofit Department, at Hamline University; Louis Jambois, executive director of the St. Paul Port Authority and former executive director of Metro Cities; and Mary Quirk, volunteer resources leadership project manager with the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration.

The League of Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, membership organization dedicated to helping cities throughout Minnesota build quality communities through effective advocacy, expert analysis, trusted guidance and collective action. The League serves its more than 830 members through advocacy, education and training, policy development, risk management and other services. For more information, visit