By Derrick Knutson—
North Branch Mayor Amy Oehlers grew up just outside of North Branch, went to high school in the city and most of her family and friends have ties to the municipality.
She served as a councilperson starting in 2000 for two terms and was then elected mayor.
She’s wrapping up her second term at the helm of the city’s top elected post, but that’s where her political journey in North Branch will end.
She said she’s not going to run for a third term.
Those who don’t know her might jump to the assertion that she’s tired of city politics, but that’s far from the case.
“I don’t want to not run,” she said. “However, as long as I can remember I’ve been a very outspoken proponent of term limits. People shouldn’t serve more than two full consecutive terms in an office.”
She admitted not being on the ballot come November was a tough decision to make, but staying true to her view of term limits overrode her desire to be the city’s mayor for another term.
Over a decade of service
As a councilperson and mayor, Oehlers has served North Branch for nearly a dozen years.
She said before she became a councilperson she hadn’t really contemplated being part of city government very much, but actions by the City Council that directly affected her led to her making the decision to run for office.
“What kind of kicked me into it was in the late 90s there was development in the Dairy Queen area, and my house was situated there,” Oehlers said.
She explained the city was trying to take her property as part of an eminent domain process.
“I had to fight City Hall, and I learned a lot of things going through that,” she said.
Oehlers also had municipal knowledge as the city clerk for Chisago City – she now works in the same capacity for Anoka – so she felt comfortable making the transition from citizen to councilperson.
After her two terms on the council, Oehlers decided to run for mayor because she knew the city was entering into some big financial issues, and she felt she would be able to make needed strong decisions in the way the city operates.
Reflecting on the years
Oehlers said she will miss numerous aspects of being a part of North Branch city government.
Being the first to know about what’s going on in the city, working with city staff and fellow council members and meeting people through her work as a councilperson and mayor were just some of the facets of the job she’ll miss.
“I’ve met so many people I know I would never have met had I not done this,” she said.
Looking back, Oehlers noted she’s proud of an array of decisions she played a part in, such as the Highway 95 bridge construction, bringing Shopko to town and reducing the city’s reliance on state aid.
However, some parts of the job were difficult.
She said she found out right away that she couldn’t please everybody, and it was sometimes difficult to make decisions some residents didn’t like, especially if they were expressing boisterous opposition at council meetings.
As with many governmental bodies, ideologies often differ among members, and Oehlers said discussions sometimes became heated when fellow council members had ideas vastly different than her own.
However, even when tempers did flare, she said most of the time cooler heads eventually prevailed and councils she served on were able to work together to get a lot done in the city.
After she passes the gavel to the next mayor, Oehlers said she plans to devote more time to her son, Cole, who just graduated from high school and will be heading off to college soon.
She’s not ruling out another run for office, though, just not in North Branch.
“I can guarantee at some point my name will be on a ballot again somewhere because it’s just in me, it’s just in my blood,” she said. “I like it too much to not do it.”