2019 Year In Review

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As we say hello to 2020, let’s take one last look back at just some of the highlights from 2019 in Columbia Heights. Thanks so much to residents, volunteers, businesses, community groups, and City officials for making 2019 another great year for our City! 

In 2019…

...residents turned out in record numbers to celebrate the second annual Truck or Treat event, more than doubling the first-year attendance with an estimated 1,500 visitors. Residents also showed up in big numbers for National Night Out, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train (despite sub-zero temps), the Columbia Heights Community Picnic (which expanded this year to include an Arts and Crafts Fair), the Fire Safety Open House, the Citywide Garage Sale, the Jamboree, Fixit Clinics, and the second annual Cheers for Beers event, to name a few.

...the City of Columbia Heights said goodbye to a number of longtime employees who retired in 2019, but also welcomed a new City Manager, a new Community Development Director, a new Fire Chief, a new Assistant Fire Chief, a new HR manager, and a new City Clerk.

....Kelli Bourgeois started as City Manager on Jan 2, replacing Walter Fehst, who retired at the end of 2018 after 22 years on the job. Bourgeois has been with the City of Columbia Heights since 2014, previously as the human resources director and assistant City manager. Her career in local government has spanned 24 years.

Fire Chief Charlie Thompson took over for Chief Gary Gorman, who retired after 41 years with the City. Dan O’Brien was promoted to Assistant Fire Chief, taking over for John Larkin, who retired after 29 years with the City.

...the City held its first City Services Expo and Town Hall in March to provide a chance for residents to meet one-on-one with City staff and get their questions answered. The next City Services Expo will be Feb 8.

the Outstanding Citizen Award went to active community member Catherine Miske, and the Employee of the Year Award went to Fire Captain Tony Cuzzupe. Congratulations Catherine and Tony!

…Columbia Heights Police Chief Lenny Austin was among 256 law enforcement officers who graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, this fall. Internationally known for its academic excellence, the Academy offers 10 weeks of advanced communication, leadership, and fitness training.

...in less than a year, Officer Darry Jones Jr. went from never having formally trained as a boxer in his life to fighting in 15 official bouts and winning 14, which gave him enough experience to compete in the Olympic Trial Qualifiers. He trained at the Firehouse Gym inside City Hall and took the opportunity to promote community policing in the City.

…for the first time in eight years, the Columbia Heights Fire Department had a chance to practice live-burn training inside an actual house thanks to a collaborative effort among City departments and residents.

...the City adopted its 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which will act as a blueprint for the City’s future over the next 10 years.

for the 28th year in row, the City of Columbia Heights Finance Department won a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association, the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting in North America.

…the Economic Development Authority, in partnership with the CHPD and the Community Development Department, expanded its Façade Improvement Grant Program in its second year to include 40th Avenue. The program helped fund exterior improvements for eight businesses along both Central Ave and 40th Ave, amounting to roughly $25,000 in reimbursements. The program will return in 2020.

...to help advance redevelopment along Central Ave, the Economic Development Authority purchased the NE Bank Building located at the intersection of Central and 40th Ave NE. The City Council also voted to locate a new City Hall at the location as part of a unique development opportunity.

...for the first time this fall, the Columbia Heights Public Library offered citizenship classes in partnership with the Adult Education Center. The library also expanded its English Conversation Circles drop-in service to include Monday evenings.

...with help from a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health, the Public Works Department installed a bike fixit station outside the Columbia Heights Public Library to help support the library’s mission to provide residents access to resources, information, and technology in a welcoming environment that can improve their lives.

Happy New Year from the City of Columbia Heights! Here's to a great 2020!

1-2-20