TenHaken: Sioux Falls will play a leadership role in bringing area communities together

Feb. 27, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by the Minnehaha County and Lincoln County Economic Development Associations.

A snapshot taken in late 2018 helps tell the story.

Taken in the Sioux Falls City Hall, newly elected Mayor Paul TenHaken stands surrounded by mayors from communities in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties.

They had gathered for one of what TenHaken anticipates will multiple meetings to discuss common goals, challenges and opportunities for the Sioux Falls region.

We caught up with him to learn more about his plans for bringing communities together.

Sioux Falls is becoming an increasingly expanding metro area. What are some of the first impressions you’ve had of that regionalization? What has stood out to you?

My first impression is the obvious — each mayor in the region wants a community with incredible quality of life. As a region, Sioux Falls will play an important leadership role in bringing the area communities together to plan and collaborate while working hand-in-hand with SECOG (The South Eastern Council of Governments). I am also impressed by the leadership in our surrounding communities and their desire for collaboration with Sioux Falls.

What do you see as the city’s role in regionalization?

The Sioux Falls area has grown tremendously in the past decade, and there are no indications of a slowdown. Thankfully, our steady and predictable growth allows Sioux Falls, our neighboring communities and the counties to collaborate on how we grow together. Key to this is infrastructure — roads, water and wastewater. As mayor, I want us to be on the same page with our transportation plans. I also want other communities to work with the city to help with their wastewater needs. It is a savings to their taxpayers to connect with Sioux Falls’ wastewater facility, and the Sioux Falls wastewater enterprise fund can accommodate a regional system with the investments customers are making in the facility. Ultimately, it’s our role to not encroach on the individuality that other communities wish to maintain, while also showing how collaborative approaches will provide long-term value.

The 85th Street interchange is a good example of a regional approach to transportation infrastructure. What ramifications do you see from that project regionally?

The 85th Street interchange is a shining example of how the private sector and multiple public entities work together to open up a new area for commerce and housing. That interchange will alleviate traffic congestion in Sioux Falls and allow other communities to easily access what will be a new, booming commerce center. As our area continues to grow, collaboration between these stakeholders is critical to moving our community forward.

 You’re becoming a part of Harrisburg’s search for a new school superintendent. There now are eight school districts within the city limits of Sioux Falls. How is the city managing all those relationships, and is there a way for the city to bring those districts together collaboratively in any way?

Sioux Falls is blessed to have so many high-quality school districts in our region. The city meets with districts on their near-term and long-term planning for facilities and transportation, as well as school safety. With school district boundaries frozen, we’re able to help the districts prepare for the new growth pockets in the city so they can plan for their school boundaries and potentially even new schools. What I have been trying to do is model the way for what collaborative problem-solving looks like, which these districts will need to utilize more and more.

What has been your biggest surprise about what’s happening in surrounding communities since becoming mayor?

I’ve spent a lot of time pushing a regionalized message on economic development. When Brandon wins, for instance, Sioux Falls wins. The dollars from regional economic development growth in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties will directly and indirectly impact our economy here. I am so encouraged by the growth I see in these communities and how that growth will benefit all of us.   

Where do you see the city’s relationship with surrounding communities heading? Do you have some goals or priorities for yourself and the city as regional leaders?

 The Sioux Falls area will continue to grow, and I am excited for growth our neighboring communities will experience as well. We are reliant on each for housing, workforce and economic diversity, so our collaboration is important to moving forward for continued success. I am looking forward to the “mayoral roundtable” lunches we have going, which I recently hosted in City Hall. My goal is to work together to make sure our infrastructure makes sense for our constituent bases and our transportation network properly connects our communities. The days are close when there will be no visible boundary between our regional municipalities. Thinking as a region and planning as a metro will prepare us well for the decades ahead of us.

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TenHaken: Sioux Falls will play a leadership role in bringing area communities together

“The days are close when there will be no visible boundary between our regional municipalities.” Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken is looking toward that future by bringing area communities together today.

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