Newly appointed city councilor Mike Urban is shown with Mayor Russell Smith following his first meeting.
Newly appointed city councilor Mike Urban is shown with Mayor Russell Smith following his first meeting.
During the April 22 Chatfield City Council meeting, Mike Urban was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council. To Urban, it was the next appropriate step for him to continue to provide service to the city he has lived in most of his life.

Urban, 35, was born and raised in Chatfield and graduated from Chatfield High School in 1996. After graduation he worked in management at the Super America chain in Rochester. He also worked for a construction company. His ability to work was limited in 2001 when he suffered a diving accident that left him a quadriplegic. He spent several months undergoing rehabilitation in Minneapolis and moved to Dover for a time. He found his way back to Chatfield after a few years. Although unable to do physical tasks, Urban soon took the initiative of finding ways he could volunteer in the community.

Urban has been a volunteer baseball coach for Chatfield High School for 17 years. He also helps coordinate community fundraising events such as the Molly-Jake Alumni Basketball Tournament and the Doc Skaug Golf Tournament. Urban was also a park partner's member for the city's park project.

His community involvement also meant his interests extended toward city business. "I like to be informed and know what is going on and what is being done," Urban shared.

He added that he prefers to hear city plans "from the horses' mouth" and not from just what is talked about downtown. Due to the Chatfield Cable Television channel broadcasts of school board and city council meetings, Urban said he loyally watches the meetings and has been following the goings-on for years. It was probably only a matter of time until Urban would be able to participate in those meetings first-hand.

After former mayor Don Hainlen had resigned and vice-mayor Russell Smith took over the office, a city council seat was vacated. The council immediately called for interested residents to send in letters of intent to serve and for other residents to lend their support to any candidate they chose.

Urban sent in a letter expressing his interest to serve for the remaining two years on the seat's term. The city also received several calls, emails and letters from residents expressing their support of Urban.

"I've had people who've said I should get involved," he explained, saying that the influence of others combined with his desire to give back to the city motivated his decision to put his name toward the council.

Urban also feels like he understands a lot of what is going on in Chatfield. "I've lived here my whole life. I've seen what type of businesses have been here and what new businesses are here," he shared.

The city council weighed their options and decided to appoint Urban to the council during that April meeting. Urban was in attendance at the meeting and was sworn in by City Clerk Joel Young. Urban then took his spot on the council.

Throughout the remainder of his first meeting, Urban lent his thoughts on several issues. The years of following city matters, Urban hopes, will help him become more involved right away.

Several of the issues facing the city right now are the same things that Urban has been thinking about and working on solving. Speaking on the Twiford Street development, the new Kwik Trip, the Chatfield Center for the Arts, among other things, Urban stated, "We have the nuts and bolts of everything. Now we are seeing how we can move everything forward."

Putting in hard work and listening to all sides in order to solve problems is something Urban enjoys.

"A lot of that had to do with my family," he explained adding that he learned the value of hard work through his grandparents and parents.

Urban realized his own need to give back to the city after experiencing a great deal of support after suffering his injury. Part of that giving back is making sure all sides are heard on important city issues.

"Decisions have to be made and you'll never please 100 percent of the people. That's the nature of the business. You just try to talk to as many people as you can," he said.

Urban feels like he has an ability to listen and encourages feedback from anyone. He said the general public many times doesn't realize the planning and thought which goes on in subcommittees. He encouraged the public to get involved in understanding what is going on.

"Any one of us (councilors) is a stop on the street or a phone call away. We'll answer any questions the best we can," he added.

Urban recognizes he isn't going to have the answers right away to many things. He mentioned the learning that is coming from understanding the city ordinances and role of the government. He said he sees where it could take a person a few years to get some things down.

"That's the part I'm looking forward to," he shared. Since the term is just two years, Urban said he will be able to tell if running for election is what he will want to do at that time. For now, he expects himself to put in the work, become knowledgeable, and follow along, "so I'm knowing what's going on."

His vision for Chatfield relates to becoming well-maintained and fiscally-sound. "We need to build upon what the current council is already doing," he said. "We have a lot of old infrastructure, so we have to keep pecking away at these projects otherwise we'll have huge bills to deal with."

He gave the Twiford project and replacing old sewer lines and roads as part of that plan. Doing these things in a fiscally sound manner is important to Urban as well.

"We try to get the best bang for our buck and keep taxes as low as we can," Urban explained.

Attracting more people and new businesses to the area is a major goal for Urban. He views the Destination Medical Center project as a huge opportunity for Chatfield to grow. It would make better a city that Urban already thinks is doing well.

"We have good management who plan well for the future. We have 24-hour police coverage, a great fire department and ambulance service and a good school. It's a nice community that anyone should be proud of," he said.

Urban considers himself a people person and is looking forward to hearing from both the younger generations and the older ones.

"I'm pretty much an open book. Don't be afraid to track me down and talk," he said, adding that he is recognizable in his motorized wheelchair. "I have the time and I take pride in giving back and doing anything to better the community."