Empire Township, located in Dakota County, will be formally recognized as Minnesota’s newest city on Tuesday. The change comes after a Valentine’s Day special election which saw about 10 percent of the community’s approximately 3,200 residents take part in a vote to select Empire’s first-ever mayor and city council.
Soon-to-be mayor Trent Larson had about 200 more votes than his closest competitor. He said the community’s transition to a city was necessary in order to prevent the 160-year-old community from being annexed by its bigger neighbors.
“It's fantastic news. Now that we're starting to grow, we can solidify our borders and we can plan for our future,” Larson said. “I take very much pride in the fact that the community within where I live saw fit that they wanted me to be their mayor.”
Joining Larson as Empire moves from a three-member town board to a five-member council and mayor are newly elected council members Eric Hanson, Tom Kaldunski, Danny Rubio and Marla Vagts.
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Law enforcement duties will continue to be covered by the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office and include a full-time deputy for Empire. The sheriff’s department plans to meet with smaller communities in the county Thursday to discuss how to fund more officers for smaller cities.
While Empire’s fire department will remain unchanged, Larson, a retired 20-year veteran and captain of the Farmington Fire Department, said he would like to have a new fire hall built that “Farmington and Empire can share.”
School district boundaries in Empire will stay the same. So will street addresses, which currently list Farmington as the city location for most residents. If the United States Postal Service decides to add an Empire postal office, addresses could be updated, said Charles Seipel-Teng, Empire’s clerk and treasurer.
A swearing in ceremony for the new city council and mayor is scheduled for Tuesday evening after the last township board meeting. The event will mark a new beginning for the community, but Larson is confident that the new city will retain the qualities that make it special.
“We're a farm-orientated community, we're very private. We tend to, when there's problems, get together with our neighbors and we solve those problems within ourselves and move forward,” said Larson.
Four years ago, Credit River in Scott County was the last township in Minnesota to become a city.