People have all kinds of reasons for not voting on an issue. We often hear the question “What difference can my one little vote make anyway?”


People have all kinds of reasons for not voting on an issue. We often hear the question “What difference can my one little vote make anyway?”

Last week Watson residents found out what difference one vote could make when city clerk Loisjean Fossen refused to vote to accept the Watson Fire Department contract to provide fire protection for the city for one year. Only three council members were present and acting mayor Mark Radtke had to abstain from voting since he is a member of the fire department and voting, for him, would be a conflict of interest.

Councilman Mike Huntley urged Fossen to vote, supporting his motion to accept the contract, which would cost the city $10,982 for one year.

Fossen said she would not support the motion, arguing that she did not have confidence in the Watson Fire Department and that she would insist on Montevideo’s Fire Department responding if she had a fire at her home.

With only Huntley’s vote to support his own motion, the measure failed and as a result Watson is left without fire protection. The issue was tabled until the June council meeting.

Fossen’s decision and the results underscore the need for Minnesota’s League of Cities to respond to questions raised months ago by a petition from concerned citizens about the way council business is conducted.

Fossen is an elected official with a vote on council. Several times in recent months she has taken stands on issues which hamper city business. She has refused to set her hours in the office, making it well nigh impossible for residents to contact her, failed to return phone calls, refused to attend meetings when (former) mayor Jason Avelsgard was present, citing abuse by him and citizens.

Avelsgard resigned last week, giving his reason as inability to accomplish anything because of Fossen’s opposition. She was quick to motion for the council to accept his letter of resignation, which was done at last week’s meeting.

Fossen has yet to produce a copy of this year’s budget, stating that “a couple of little glitches” have to be changed.

Last week’s appearance by county sheriff’s deputies and a state patrol officer in response to a phone call from Radtke complaining of a disorderly resident who refused to sit down and stop talking about the need for fire protection for the city was the third time in recent months Chippewa County law enforcement has had to respond to calls from city officials.

One of those calls was made by Fossen claiming that half a dozen senior citizens were terrorizing her by asking for copies of minutes of meetings.

The group was summoned to the sheriff’s office to give statements about the incident. No charges were filed.

The whole thing could be dismissed as a tempest in a teapot. After all, Watson’s population totals about 210. But no matter how many people live there, they vote for leaders and pay their taxes. They are entitled to be served respectfully by the people they elect and to know how their tax money is spent. Office holders are not expected to serve their own interests above all.

The League of Cities has said that it will be making an appointment to “go over the city’s procedures,” according to last week’s meeting agenda. That appointment cannot come too soon for a city council foundering in its efforts to govern.