Jim & Mark Ness

Council Member, Samantha Denney, conducted the interview on May 24, 2016.

 The Interview Questions

(Answered in various order)When did you first move to Stacy?

Where did you go to school?
What do you see in the future for Stacy?
What was the Stacy community like?
How has the community change most over the years
Where did your parents work?
Where did you work?
What kind of stores were in the area?
What did you do around Stacy on the weekends?
When did your family first become involved in the Stacy community?

Jim Ness: We moved into Stacy the fall 1976, the reason I remember that is that I was in my freshman year in high school. My father was a troubleshooter for meat markets in stores, so we moved around a lot. So, by the time we moved to Stacy I had been to six different schools. For some reason it was important for us not to go to a big city school. So, when we moved from Madison, South Dakota back to Minnesota, my father got a job in South St. Paul, and they picked here because they had a mobile home so we moved into the mobile home park. At the time only the North section was open so we moved there, and then the following year the south end opened so we moved there. A few years later my grandmother could not live on her own so we moved her up here from Sandstone and bought her a mobile home and moved her up here next to us.

Jim Ness: At the time we played ball and the normal kid stuff, which they can’t do now. Participated in the summer league ball one year. We played on the swings and stuff. Before all of that was in they had swings and teeter totters. The ice skating rink in the winter. The traffic was light enough to walk across the bridge and not get killed.

Jim Ness: We chose to go to North Branch School and I do not remember why we chose to go to North Branch over Forest Lake. We all went to North Branch, we rode the first 90 seat school bus that came down to the mobile home park at that time because there were so many kids. I graduated in the top ten percent or less in my class, number seven out of a hundred and forty some. There were four of us kids. I have older brother, a younger sister and a younger brother, we are all about a year apart. All graduated from North Branch school. My older brother went to Rasmussen and got his business degree. I went to Northwestern Electronics Institute which was bought out by Dunwoody a few years ago. I went into the field to fix electron microscopes. When I first entered into the field I got moved out to Columbus, Ohio. When they hired me they hired two of us at the same time and the other person was married so he didn’t want to move out to Columbus so they asked me if I would go, I said “Sure” I was twenty years old at the time, he lasted about four months and his wife hated the traveling so he quit, and when the area opened up again I took up the chance to move back. Bought the house here because of the field service it was easier to get to any part of the cities.

Got married in 1988, interesting thing is that I met my wife in a dating service. I was gone three to four days a week, and meeting people was difficult. She grew up in Hopkins, the idea was we would move here for two years and then move closer to the cities. Then the kids got too far in school, then I didn’t want to move the kids around like I did, so we decided to stay here until the kids got done with school.

Over the years the kids played soccer, summer ball, just the normal parent stuff. My father was on the planning commission, not sure how he got talked into it. Then he was on the City Council for four years and he ran on a dare at the time he was working at Sunrise Market. Originally it was just a gas station convenience store and the owner talked to my dad because he wanted to put fresh meat in, just a small section and when they opened the big store they gave him a full-time job. The owner dared him to run for council and paid for the two-dollar fee. At that time he was still on the Planning Commission and he won. He was part of the early 80s council. He served with (Melvin) Jack Scutter.

It was shortly after that we moved up here and got laid off at field service and got the job I have now with Seagate, got involved in the Planning commission just to say I did it. Did that for ten years on and off being chair and stuff. I would go to some of the city council meetings just to watch and at the time that I got on it originally it was little dysfunctional. Keacher resigned so they were looking for someone to finish out his office so I put my letter of interest in and they selected me. When the election came up I ran and got elected. A big problem at the time was that I was young and took everything personally and the kids were getting involved in ball and stuff and so I quit at that time. And then six years ago now, because of Mark’s civics class Mark wanted to see how the city ran and stuff so we started going to council meetings here and there. Mark wanted to be involved and they did some research to see if Mark needed to be 18 to serve on a committeeMark Ness: Well I got involved a bit before that. So the 2008 election got me interested in politics. So when the city newsletter went out and I saw that they had an opening on Ordinance Committee I applied and was able to get on the committee. I think it was maybe a few months into it when January came around and they nominated me co-chair. Then they decided to merge Ordinance Committee and Planning Commission together so they combined the positions and that is when the two alternates came onto the Planning Commission. So, I believe I started as an alternate and worked my way into becoming a full member and when I was first appointed the city attorney had to research whether someone who was under 18 could serve on the Planning Commission. Mainly because it was okay for someone who is under 18 to serve on the Ordinance Committee because they made recommendations to the Planning Commission, because then it goes to the Planning Commission and then onto the City Council but now because it was Planning Commission directly to the City Council everything was a little different. But everything came back fine. I was nominated chair for a year or two and then during that time I went to college and got my Associates in Paralegal studies and had done an internship with the city attorney and when I was doing the internship I had to take a leave of absence. The attorney hired me full-time and permanently and then I had to resign due to a potential conflict of interest. So, I had gotten a new job opportunity in Minneapolis in a larger law firm doing a different type of work so that opened me up to be able to join, so at the beginning of this year 2016 I put my letter of interest in and was put back on the Planning Commission.

Jim Ness: So, I also got back involved again because they were looking for people for the Planning Commission. Then the year Mark Utecht got elected mayor he was half way through his council term and so there was an open seat. Again I put my letter of interest in and they picked me. When the term came up, and I was doing much better and was much calmer, so I decided to run again.

Civic duty is what spurred my interest in City Council. My philosophy is that everyone should get involved in the government sometime.

Jim Ness: Stores in town at that time there was the hardware store, the Rustic Inn, what is today Pretty Bird back then it was Barzons’, they did the same thing. Mel Aslakson’s accounting business; that was about it. The church is where the Stacy Commons is across from Tim’s before they moved where they are now. The Post Office was on the south side of 311th on the other side of Tim’s and the building next to that was Stacy TV. He owned that one and another one in Rush City at that time.

Jim Ness: I don’t see changing a whole lot in the next ten years to be very honest, with the economy being where it is at. You are seeing people go back to the city. The expansion to rural areas has stopped and that we will not see an expansion from the cities for at least another ten years. I think that someday you will see Stacy and Lent merge, because it is due every ten or fifteen years, the legislature starts talking about getting rid of townships. But someday you will see Stacy / Lent combine for the survival of both of our towns. WE will have to, just to have the proper growth and keep it managed to what people want. Because Stacy is not big enough and the township is not set up to do what needs to be done.

Interview question: Now you mentioned that you became interested in city governance when you were sixteen. Did your dad or your grandfather’s involvement in the city spur your interest in serving?

Mark Ness: You know, I actually didn’t know about my grandfather’s involvement in the city until my dad and I were talking about a fence ordinance. So that was the first time I ever heard that my grandfather was active in politics. When my dad was initially involved I was too young to really realize what he was doing. Though I do remember his brown briefcase that had black latches that was in the office. I always remember that, but otherwise it was not anything like that. Somehow the election sparked me and ever since then I have decided that I want to be president of the United States. When I was graduating from high school the commencement speaker discussed how we may have a future president and everyone looked at where I was sitting. It was even during 2010 that I got involved in Chip Cravack when he was running for Congress. So that really got everything rolling.

Mark Ness:  I have lived here since I was born in 1993 and went to North Branch schools the entire time. I graduated from North Branch in 2011. My mom worked for the school district for a little while when we were in school. She was a lunchroom and playground supervisor. My dad has worked at Seagate in Bloomington. I never worked during high school so my first job was with the city attorney in Center City. I now work in Minneapolis.

The stores are all pretty much the same as they are now; of course it was IGA instead of Kwik Trip. Dollar General was not here, but before Dollar General there was a local farmer. It was not exactly a Farmer’s Market or anything, but he would sell sweet corn and have a produce stand so you could go. I remember shucking corn every summer. The Doyle Ball Fields and building are relatively new. The Lions have really improved them since, these fields were never used for summer ball for kids; so I never played there.  I don’t know what it was like but I do know that it has been hugely improved. I remember going to the old firehouse for the open house.

On the weekends we would try to fish. The one good story I remember while fishing, was that when we went over to the dam. I walked on the marshy grass and fell through into the lake. But we never really caught any fish there. Another thing that we did was golfing. I joined the junior league at Falcon Ridge and we’ve golfed ever since.

Mark Ness:  We didn’t have a whole lot of recreation. We went to the park,  I was in ball for a while, but stopped when it got serious. I think most of it was just the park and playing ball. It was where we lived, where our house is, we are not necessarily in a neighborhood, we lived on the corner of a busy street. But the neighbor Tommy and I would meet in the summers and play video games and play outside stuff. I remember the ice skating rink and the church. Because when I would go to school, there was a kid in my grade who got picked up at the church. It was a residence at the time in the pastor house. Not much has changed. I remember the old bar across the street. I remember the bank that is now Gateway Sign it had been three different banks and was always robbed. It was close to the interstate. I remember going a lot of the Stacy Daze and that Stacy Daze used to have a lot more kids activities than it does now. At the time the Lions were separated into two groups. It was the Lions and the Lionesses and the Lionesses focused mainly on the kids activities. The Tractor Pulls were a great contest, I still have my ribbons from the Tractor Pulls.

Before the Stacy Daze fireworks we went to the Forest Lake fireworks and that was crazy. You would have to scope out your spot for days prior to the celebrations. People would have to park as far away as the Hitching Post to see the Parade and the Fireworks.

Mark Ness:  the parade route for Stacy Daze has been the same since I was young. It has always been small, but they used to have the marching bands come play. I am not sure that the marching band from North Branch goes through the summer anymore. One year they had the Forest Lake marching band come up. But after that there has not been much in the parade.

I would also say that I do not see Stacy expanding in the next ten years. Though I do hope that one day we will expand.