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Erik Burgess, Published November 21 2013

Lanning assures Voxland, 'There is life after the mayor's office'

MOORHEAD – Mark Voxland would have been fine if his last day at the office had been a wave, a nod of the head and a simple “goodbye” as he headed for the exit.

That’s just the kind of guy he is, his wife, Donna, said before a private event honoring Voxland on Thursday night at the Hjemkomst Center.

The Moorhead mayor is retiring Dec. 31 after 26 years in city government, 12 of them as mayor.

“He likes to put on these kinds of things for other people,” Donna Voxland said. “He doesn’t like to be the center of attention when it’s for him.”

About 80 current and former colleagues who worked alongside Voxland during nearly the past three decades wouldn’t let the soft-spoken mayor off so easily.

The celebratory event was a real who’s who of regional and state leaders: representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, current state legislators, council members and city staff past and present.

Former Moorhead Mayor and Rep. Morrie Lanning said Voxland’s reach extended far beyond the city’s edges.

“I would have people keep coming up to me down in St. Paul, talking about how much they appreciated and respected Mark for his work on behalf of cities,” Lanning said.

While former Sen. Keith Langseth, who left the Capitol last year after 31 years in the Senate, advised Voxland that “retirement is good,” Lanning had other advice.

“You’re way too young to retire, and I can assure you that there is life after the mayor’s office,” Lanning said.

Voxland said before the event that he likely won‘t follow in the footsteps of Lanning, who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for 10 years after leaving the Moorhead mayor’s chair.

“This was as high as I think I want to go, and quite honestly, it’s pretty amazing,” Voxland said. “I’m not partisan enough to be an elected official in Congress or the Legislature.”

For Wayne Ingersoll, chairman of the Clay County Commission, Voxland’s honesty and matter-of-fact style made him both a good mayor and a “true gentleman.”

“I think one of the most admirable things about Mark Voxland is he doesn’t have an ego,” Ingersoll said.

During his years on the council and as mayor, Voxland will have worked with 30 council members and five city managers over his 26 years in political office, said Councilwoman Nancy Otto. He helped Moorhead grow, kept the ship steady through years of serious floods and helped residents rebound afterward, she said.

“He held it together,” Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

Voxland didn’t have too many words for the crowd Thursday night. Instead, he offered a toast to colleagues, staff, other lawmakers and the residents of Moorhead.

His voice quivered a bit as he thanked his wife and their two sons and one daughter for their support.

“I missed a lot of track meets,” Voxland said. “I missed concerts. I missed all sorts of things. Thank you for understanding. I appreciate that.”

“And to six wonderful grandchildren,” Voxland added. “Since I didn’t make quite as many events for your parents, I’ll make more for you guys. I can’t wait for that.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518