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OUR OPINION: A council president for all seasons

Here is a line from the Herald news story in which Hal Gershman announced he would not be running for re-election.

It tells you everything about Gershman you need to know:

Gershman was first elected to the Grand Forks City Council in 2000 and has been council president since then.”

Think about that for a minute.

  •  The council chose Gershman to be its president at the very first meeting the newly elected council member attended.

The date was June 27, 2000. The council had 14 members back then; many of them had had years of experience on the council.

A number also had been council members during the 1997 flood. The event still was fresh in every resident’s memory, and had served as a crucible testing a variety of leadership styles.

So, when the time came for the council to channel this collective wisdom into choosing a president, it’s notable that 11 of the 14 members voted for the newbie: Gershman.

As the successful owner of a prominent local business and a “go-to” board member and volunteer, Gershman had spent his career making high-level decisions for the betterment of Grand Forks.

Couple that with his unmatched ability to get along with others, and you’ll start to see why Gershman’s fellow members thought that despite his lack of City Council experience, he was their choice to lead the council.

  •  Art Bakken. Sam Martinson. Bob Brooks. Lowell Stevens. Elliot Glassheim.

Gerald Hamerlik. Dorette Kerian. Mike McNamara. LaVerne Babinchak. Duane Lunak.

Not to mention incumbents Dana Sande, Doug Christensen, Bret Weber, Ken Vein, Terry Bjerke and Tyrone Grandstrand …

These are just some of the other Grand Forks residents who’ve served on the Grand Forks City Council over the past 14 years.

They represent all age groups, come from all income levels, tout a wide range of ideologies and hail from all walks of life.

But each and every one of them has one key thing in common:

They all served during terms in which the City Council chose Gershman as president.

Just as Gershman’s election to council president at his first meeting testifies to his success until that point, so, too, does his fellow council members’ unflagging confidence in him point to his leadership success since then.

The past 14 years have been a busy time in Grand Forks, starting with the City Council’s downsizing to seven members and continuing through Springfest, property-tax controversies, the coming of Canad Inns, Grand Forks Air Force Base changes and countless other issues.

Through it all, Gershman stood at the council’s helm. His humor, graciousness and steadying influence earned for him the respect of his fellow council members — and the thanks and goodwill of just about everyone else in town.

While the council president doesn’t exercise mayoral power, he or she does set a vital example in City Hall and often represents the city at official events. For the past 14 years, it has been the City Council’s considered judgment that the best person for that job would be Hal Gershman.

The rest of Grand Forks, we feel confident in saying, proudly would agree that the council has been absolutely right.

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