Residents' pride, investments in community help Grafton and Cavalier win 2021 City of the Year honors

2021 recognition comes from the North Dakota League of Cities.

Cavalier City of the year 2021.JPG
Diane Affeldt, NDLC board president; Kelli Truver, Cavalier city administrator; Lacey Hinkle, mayor of Cavalier and Blake Crosby, NDLC executive director at the NDLC Annual Conference on Sept. 18. (Contributed image / North Dakota League of Cities)
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City leaders say passionate residents and investments in their communities helped two northeast North Dakota communities earn statewide recognition last month.

Grafton and Cavalier were named 2021 City of the Year by the North Dakota League of Cities during the organization's annual conference. Winners are chosen by a committee that looks at programs implemented by cities. The committee judges each city on how well the programs achieve their goals, how well the city uses its resources, how valuable a program is to the community and what other cities can learn from the program.

Blake Crosby, North Dakota League of Cities executive director, says the accomplishments of individual cities often go unnoticed, but the City of the Year award brings those accomplishments to a wider audience.

"It's important that the League of Cities recognizes cities around the state that are doing such a great job for their citizens and for the region because they don't get a lot of recognition," said Crosby. "It provides them with some very, very much due recognition and encourages other cities to say 'hey, you know, we can do some of that.'"

Grafton, this year’s large city of the year, was given the award for showing “great resiliency and planning for the future,” according to the North Dakota League of Cities. The projects in Grafton considered for the award included the city’s comprehensive flood control project , a $20 million hospital expansion and a school bond referendum.


“I think we’ve got a good leadership team in place now, just looking for future growth and quality of life for the citizens of Grafton,” said Greg Young, Grafton City Council member.

Young said city leadership played an important role in completing the projects.

Grafton’s $48 million flood control project removes the city from the 100-year floodplain with a 3.2-mile diversion channel and 12.5 miles of tie-back levees.

Cavalier was awarded the small-city division's City of the Year for being a “city on the move,” according to the North Dakota League of Cities. Highlights of the city’s nomination included a master development plan for the city, a stimulus program to encourage spending in the city and a bike share program.

Kelli Truver, Cavalier city administrator, cites community pride as the reason so many improvements have been made in the town.

“We have a lot of passionate people in the city who want to see the community be successful,” said Truver.

In recent years, Cavalier has focused on economic, social and community development. Its master development plan provides resources for development, including grants for business growth, storefront improvement and housing.

Truver says the thing that sets Cavalier apart from others is how it invests into the community. Both of the COVID-19 stimulus packages received by the city were used to support local businesses.


The first was used to create the City Stimulus Incentive Program . When customers made purchases in the city that qualify for sales tax, they could receive 10% of their purchase back in “city bucks” – Cavalier’s currency that can be used at businesses in town. The second stimulus went directly to local businesses and helped cover costs like utilities, rent and paying staff. Businesses could receive grants of up to $10,000 each, and 25 businesses in the city utilized the program.

“It was our choice how to utilize these dollars, and we wanted to reinvest in the community,” said Truver.

Truver was excited that both the large and small cities of the year are in northeastern North Dakota, and explained the pride in the area is not confined to Cavalier’s city limits.

“We are very proud of where we are. We are very proud of what we have,” said Truver. “That definitely shows and people in the state are recognizing it.”

Grafton City of the Year 2021.JPG
Greg Young, Grafton city council member; Christopher Lipsh, Grafton city council Member; Diane Affeldt, NDLC board president; Chris West, mayor of Grafton; Blake Crosby, NDLC executive director and Nick Ziegelmann, Grafton city administrator at the NDLC Annual Conference on Sept. 18. (Contributed image / North Dakota League of Cities)

Related Topics: GRAFTON
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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