Jasper Journal features two Blandin Community Leadership alumni, brothers and Minnesota city mayors

Last month we wrote a story on two civic-minded brothers who went through the Blandin Community Leadership Program. They later went on to become mayors of Jasper and Luverne, MN.

Earlier this month, the Jasper Journal covered their story. Since the newspaper is not published online, we thought we would share it on our blog. Enjoy!

Civic involvement inspired by Blandin, brothers say

When Mike Baustian is sworn in as mayor of Jasper during the Tuesday, Jan. 13 Jasper City Council meeting, he’ll become the second Mayor Baustian in a city that’s at least partially in Rock County.

Mike’s brother Pat just completed his fourth year as mayor of Luverne and in November was elected to his third term. The brothers each served on their city’s council before becoming mayor, Mike for six years and Pat for eight.

The two men grew up with five sisters on the family farm in northern Springwater Township in Rock County, about 10 miles south of Jasper. One sister died of cancer and the rest moved from the area, leaving Mike and Pat the last of the seven siblings living in southwest Minnesota.

Involvement in local government and politics wasn’t something the Baustian brothers set their sights on as young men.

Pat pursued a career in the military and has served in various capacities for 33 years. He’s now a Chief Master Sergeant with the 114th Fighter Wing of the South Dakota Air National Guard.

Mike stuck with the family business and farms in and near Jasper, raising cattle and hogs and growing corn and soybeans with his wife and son and a few other employees.

“It keeps us busy,” Mike said.

Pat said he’d considered involvement in local government prior to attending the Blandin Community Leadership Program (BCLP) in 1998, but he acted after attending the program.

“If you want to make things better, you’ve got to be involved,” Pat said.

When the opportunity presented itself for Mike to attend the BCLP in 2008, Pat urged him to go. Mike attended and now he too credits the program with his civic involvement.

“Once you go through the program you realize, maybe it’s my turn to help the community,” Mike said.

The program “is designed to develop and sustain healthy community by building on community strengths. Healthy community is a place to live where all people can meet their economic, social, physical, cultural and spiritual needs, work together for the common good, and participate in creating their future,” according to the Blandin Foundation’s website at leadership.blandinfoundation.org.

“The Blandin Community Leadership Program provides a lot of tools to make your community better,” Pat said.

He credits his childhood on the family farm with instilling him with the tools of responsibility and accountability and his military service with his ability to lead, mentor, learn and supervise. But while the military “can be black and white” in how things are done, he said, the Blandin program taught him that people could have differing opinions and still work together to accomplish goals.

Mike said he’s applied the lessons learned from the Blandin program to form better relationships in business as well as in the community. It’s an experience both men encourage anyone to take advantage of if given the opportunity.

The brothers speak with each other on a regular basis and since they’ve both become involved in their communities, the conversation inevitably turns to the challenges and projects that affect their cities. While the size of their cities varies greatly – Jasper has a population of 633, Lunverne 4,745 – there are similar challenges such as keeping the cities clean and running smoothly, and responding to the concerns of citizens.

The mayors agreed that staying connected and listening to the concerns of the citizens is an important part of keeping their cities running well. Mike said city government is “very local” and citizens should feel comfortable bringing their concerns to the council as they often do in Jasper.

He said his goal as mayor is to respond to those concerns and the needs of the community as well as his perdecessors have. It’s a task he said that will be aided by the quality of employees of the city of Jasper.

First published in the Jasper Journal on January 12, 2015.

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