When Patricia Krings began working as an administrative assistant at Belle Plaine City Hall, the population of the city was around 3000, she estimates.
A lot has changed in the 30 or so years since Krings took her job at city hall and later retired. Now more than ever, Belle Plaine city leaders rely on industry experts for design, planning and implementation of a swath of projects. Decision making has become “more professional,” according to Krings. And as of Monday, Jan. 6, Krings for the first time took up her seat on the other side of the city hall table when she was sworn onto the city council.
Stepping into outgoing councilman Ben Stier’s seat mid-term, Krings is set to fill the seat until the end of this year.
Despite the fact that Krings has never been far from city hall, she was always content staying on the non-voting side of city council.
When she was approached by current councilman Cary Coop about the fact that Stier’s position was set to become vacant due to his upcoming move outside of city limits, Krings was content to stay her course and not pursue the role. But as months passed and she considered that the role would be for one year, not the full four-year term, she couldn’t find a reason to say no.
“I thought, ‘Why not? Why not serve on the other side of the table in this position?’” Krings said.
Now, just over a week after officially taking the position, Krings is ready to hit the ground running in her mission to promote Belle Plaine in the “most uplifting ways.”
She hopes to do that through welcoming commercial growth, particularly along the Highway 169 corridor, according to a note she submitted to the Herald.
“The stage is set for commercial development to occur along our corridor,” Krings’s note reads. “With our population expanding and the increase of motorists on TH 169, I believe we can support a number of national chain restaurants and service-oriented businesses.”
Krings believes Belle Plaine is at a crucial point in its development. On one hand, the city is rich with history and lifelong residents familiar with that history. On the other, Belle Plaine is sandwiched between two booming population centers in Mankato and the Twin Cities and is set to welcome a round of new residents who don’t necessarily have local roots. Appealing to the latter category will be a fundamental part of Krings’s outlook as a councilwoman, she said.
“I think we serve the senior population well, but I think we can do better for the millennial generation,” Krings said.
“I want Belle Plaine to have the image of being youthful and growing and exciting. I think that’s the only way we’re going to survive,” she later added.
As a Belle Plaine area native, former Belle Plaine business operator and ‘Traditions’ tree-lighting honoree of the Belle Plaine Historical Society, Krings is no stranger to the history and workings of Belle Plaine. She stated that she does not believe being forward-thinking and appealing to those who appreciate Belle Plaine’s history are mutually exclusive.
“Belle Plaine has a strong base, a strong core. There are so many lifelong residents here. I think they’re just like me. You grow, you change, you want more amenities, you want your children to have the best of everything, so I think it all works; I just think it all works,” Krings said.
Krings has always respected those who have taken office in Belle Plaine, though she has seldom envied the decision-making aspect of their role. But now that she is in the position she has seen many take, she feels her experience in city hall gives her a certain brand of stability.
“I always respected those councils for standing up for what they felt was right for the whole city, not perhaps for their own gain or their neighborhood or friends,” Krings said. “We just have to look at what’s best for the 7000 residents and just always vote trying to make Belle Plaine the best for everyone. So that’s where my vote is going to be.”
Krings and her 12 siblings were raised on a family farm seven miles south of Belle Plaine. She operated the Red Door Bar in Belle Plaine from 1974 to 1977 and owned an old-fashioned candy and ice cream store called Pattie’s Goodies. She was co-founder of the annual Belle Plaine Recycle/Clean Up Day. Krings served as the city’s recording secretary for all city meetings, including city council, planning commission, economic development authority, and park board.
She finds enjoyment learning about holistic health and wellness.