The finalists for the Minnesota Women in City Government (MWCG) 2010 Leadership Awards for an elected woman were recently announced, Mary Hamann-Roland, Mayor, City of Apple Valley and Pine City’s very own Mayor Jane Robbins.
Last evening, Mayor Jane Robbins was selected to receive the award, just two years after receiving the C.C. Ludwig Award, the League of Minnesota Cities’ highest honor for an elected official. MWCG award recipients were announced and honored, along with finalists, during the annual MWCG membership meeting at the Kelly Inn in St. Cloud as part of the LMC Annual Conference and Marketplace.
Mayor Robbins was recognized for her individual achievement in Pine City, as well as leadership and mentoring roles both inside and outside of the community.
- High-Profile Women Mayors of Minnesota
In 1953, Thief River Falls elected the first woman mayor in Minnesota when the city voted in Agnes Israelson. It wasn’t commonplace for women to serve in that capacity for several decades after. Notably, tiny Kinny, Minn. followed suit in 1973 with the election of Mary “Polly” Anderson; as did Red Wing in 1985 with the election of Joanell Dyrstad. Jane Robbins became mayor of Pine City in 1992, when just a handful of Minnesota cities had “broken the glass ceiling” allowing women to find new voice as their mayors. Minneapolis hadn’t even had its first female mayor yet; that came in 1994 when Sharon Sayles Belton took the office.
Since Pine City elected Robbins, there has been a jump in the number of women reaching for and achieving representation in ways they had not in the past, especially in Greater Minnesota, where several communities have chosen women to lead them. Across Minnesota, some of the more notable female mayors elected since Jane Robbins was elected include Burnsville’s Elizabeth Kautz (in 1994), Eagan’s Patricia Anderson (1999), Cass Lake’s Elaine Fleming (2003) and Northfield’s Mary Rossing (2008). Closer to Pine City, several communities have since elected their first woman mayor too, including Cambridge (Marlys Palmer) and North Branch (Amy Oehlers).
Growing in popularity, in 2008 14.9% (127 out of 853) of Minnesota cities had women mayors. It appears a lot of municipalities exist where women may not have a voice but Pine City is doing its part to provide opportunities for women to gain expertise and run for higher office.
- Robbins: An exceptional leader meriting the MWCG Leadership Award
The City of Pine City has had to make several difficult decisions during Robbins’ time as mayor—thus far—including what to do with the municipally-run retail liquor stores, whether or not to close the airport, how to best manage the growth in the usage of municipal infrastructure, and creating workable annexation plans with the nearby townships.
Robbins has shown considerable leadership on these issues as a diplomat, civil servant and uniter. She does things with integrity and a clear vision. She has great communication skills and has built strong relationships among community members. She has the art of persuasion and adaptability. She believes in team work, coaching and development, which serves her in her career and in public service. She is great at decision-making and does so with a strong commitment to planning for the future. She has paved the way for a new generation of women mayors and has groomed them at the local level through appointments and by serving as a role model.
- Robbins’ unique municipal accomplishments
Jane Robbins moved from Glendive, Montana, where she and her husband Jerry operated a television and radio station, to Pine City, Minnesota in 1967. The opportunity presented itself at a local radio station (now WCMP/WXCX).
In her first years in Pine City, she became well-acquainted with the people and various community organizations. She was and still is active in her church and very exposed in the community due to the nature of her work at the radio station. A background in communications and marketing would later benefit Pine Tech and the community greatly.
In October 1977, Council member Robert Hawley opted not to fill out his term in office, and Robbins was appointed. She was elected to the Council in November of that year and served there until 1986, when Karen Knox was elected. With Knox’s passing June 12, 1987, Robbins was once again elected to serve on the Council.
While on the Council, the City achieved the standards to become a Minnesota “Star City”. Her diligent work in the community earned her “Citizen of the Year” honors in 1983.
She loves to see the community grow and prosper. It has happened in a variety of ways: In her terms as mayor, the city has grown by a third, from 2,489 residents to over 3,500 residents. The city went from having just one I-35 freeway interchange to two. That led to growth on the north side of the city, especially in the Technology Park, where four JOBZ deals have been landed—one from out of state.
Examples of national businesses that have opened in that time span include McDonald’s, Speedway Super America, two Subways and a Wal-Mart Super Center, to name a few.
A senior citizen’s center was built, allowing elderly residents a place to gather (prior, they had to travel to Hinckley). As for tourism and roadside attractions, in that time a 35-foot Voyageur statue was carved and erected and now greets visitors to Pine City alongside Main Street. And, the Northwest Company Fur Post historic site capitalized on its amenities to offer an interpretive center and exhibit area to exploit its rare historical context.
When the Robbins’ sold the radio station, she went to work in customized training at Pine Technical College (PTC) even before it was a department. She played a pivotal part in getting it off the ground.
In 1994, when PTC was still part of the Pine City school district, Robbins and former PTC president, Gene Biever, worked with the district to hire three additional positions and start up the customized training department.
Internally, she is on many committees including the PTC Foundation and Staff Development. Externally, she has an excellent rapport with the business community and has offered training at many companies including East Central Energy, Atscott Manufacturing and Horizon Bank to name a few.Robbins became the first woman to hold the mayor’s office in Pine City, as a write-in candidate no less. She defeated incumbent Council Member John Lindquist and John Schumacher. She began her term in 1992 and is the longest-standing mayor the city has seen.
Her high profile within the community has helped her network and nurture relationships. By day, she does a variety of activities: She develops and provides training solutions specific to client needs; meets with developers; and builds successful relationships throughout the community. There are many companies that invite PTC back for additional training because of the customer service she provides, there are developers who admit their appreciation of her and the City, and it’s extremely difficult to find someone in the community who doesn’t “love” her.
Robbins loves to see the community be pulled together. She has seen that happen in a number of ways over the years. The City’s involvement with the “Healthy Communities Partnership” program and two separate visits by the Governor’s Design Team (now the Minnesota Design Team) were two of the ways she saw the community rally behind a unified vision.
For all of these reasons, in 2008 Robbins was selected to receive the League of Minnesota Cities’ CC Ludwig Award, the League’s highest honor for an elected official. In addition, Pine City—where she has graciously served for over 30 years—was recognized by the Initiative Foundation as the 2009 Outstanding Community.
- Robbins: A mentor and a friend
Robbins has her own special way of being a mentor and role model to the community. One of her trademarks is that she frequently makes her “famous” sticky buns and delivers them to bake sale fundraisers, church events, pot lucks, meetings with potential developers and area families who have lost a loved one or in need. She makes hundreds of pans a year—50 around the holidays alone—and has a constant supply of the necessary ingredients.
Robbins is a very hard worker and it shows in everything she does. She is down to earth, has learned from past experiences, and looks forward to the possibilities of future endeavors. Over the years, Mayor Robbins has demonstrated the truest vision, statesmanship and unwavering commitment to the public good.
It is for these aforementioned reasons that Mayor Jane Robbins is uniquely qualified to receive the 2010 Minnesota Women in City Government Leadership Award.
- Robbins’ Outstanding Contributions
Robbins has done her part to groom the next generation of women leadership within Pine City. Today in Pine City, not only is there a woman mayor but there are women firefighters, CEOs, sheriff’s deputies, a postmistress… the list goes on and on. Robbins has appointed women to leadership positions when she sees that a woman is the best candidate for the job. Today, three women serve as Planning Commissioners (which is a mayoral appointment) – the most in the City’s history.
Robbins serving the community…
In 1984, Robbins became a Pine City Lioness, a club whose good deeds she became familiar with while working at the radio station. She later went on to serve as president of the club.
Robbins has been involved in a variety of capacities over the years with the Pine Area Chamber of Commerce. She serves as an “Ambassador”, a member of a welcoming committee that greets new businesses. She has welcomed over 100 new businesses to town.
Mayor Robbins has also served on the following committees: Freedom Fest, Pine Area Star Forum, Star Cities, Firefighters’ Relief Association, Economic Development Authority, Pine Technical College Board and the Library Foundation.