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Published December 28 2013

Forum editorial: Voxland quietly effective as mayor of Moorhead

It came as something of a surprise to learn that Mark Voxland harbors an affinity for Tabasco sauce and practical jokes. Voxland, who finishes Tuesday as mayor of Moorhead, has always been so unassuming and understated in his leadership style that flamboyance seems out of character. He is one of a rare breed of politicians: He listens more than he speaks; and when he does speak out, it is worthy of note.

Voxland, an electrician by trade, is by avocation a student of government and politics. So it was not a surprise when he was recruited to run for a seat on the Moorhead City Council in 1988. When he retires from public service, he will end 26 years in city government, the past 12 as mayor. His colleagues at City Hall credit him with being a consensus builder, someone who sought to bring together a sometimes divided council, where personalities routinely clashed.

His tenure coincided with the record Red River flood of 2009. The years since have been devoted to strengthening the city’s defenses. As he steps down, Voxland leaves Moorhead much better protected against major floods. Along with others, he was able to get the Minnesota Legislature to invest

$100 million in flood control, including levee construction and buyouts of flood-prone homes. The effort has not been without controversy and occasional missteps, but overall it has been a resounding success.

Voxland’s quiet competence and his ability to persuade earned him respect and allies in the Capitol. “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,” said Morrie Lanning, Voxland’s predecessor as mayor and a former state representative.

Voxland also was able to reach across the river to cooperate with Fargo, the “big brother” city Moorhead would sometimes chafe at being compared to. Sometimes Moorhead’s unwarranted inferiority complex was showing. Cross-river comparisons are nothing new, Voxland noted, sometimes louder, sometimes softer. But in the important ways, Moorhead and Fargo have gotten along. “He held it together,” Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said, summing up Voxland’s leadership in the face of natural disasters and other challenges.

During his time as mayor, Voxland suppressed his penchant for pulling practical jokes. He recently observed, “You can’t have the mayor doing silly things around town.” But once the new year arrives, Voxland will be able to make the transition from “mayor” back to “Mark.” He’ll get a much-deserved break from the headaches at City Hall. He might even stage a practical joke on occasion.

We thank him for all he’s done for Moorhead and the F-M metro, and we wish him well.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.