By Per Peterson
Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen came to town in March. Unfortunately, so did COVID-19.
Hansen was sworn in on March 11, and it wasn’t too long after that he took part in his first official group meeting — which centered around plans on moving forward through a global pandemic that would eventually kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.
“It’s been another challenge to overcome — that’s the way I’ve looked at it,” Hansen said. “It also became kind of a distraction; you have to think about things in a different way, but I don’t ever believe that you should let an obstacle get in the way of accomplishing things. It’s been a difficult year. I think we’re fortunate to not have lost any businesses, not that people haven’t suffered, but so far we haven’t had anybody say they’re going to close.”
Hansen said arriving in Tracy about the same time as the pandemic took hold in the area gave him the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people right away.
“We had a community meeting with folks the first week I was here,” he said. “I got to meet folks at the hospital, people with the ambulance, Prairie View — it gave me the opportunity to kind of jump in.”
Hansen attended his first city council meting on the ninth, then was part of the COVID-19 response meeting. Soon after …
“Then we closed down the community center,” he said. “It was like, ‘OK, I’ve been here for four days and we’re already shutting things down. That was a unique situation, but I was glad that people were supportive of the situation, because it was such an unknown — we didn’t know what was gonna happen.”
The shuttering of the downtown Multi-Purpose Center, which would later become permanent, as the City has since sold the building to owners of the Plaid Moose in Slayton, was just one of a number of tough decisions Hansen and the city council have had to make. The Tracy Public Library also closed for a time, and the Tracy Aquatic Center never did open.
“The pool was a great disappointment,” he said. “I was just communicating with (pool manager) Shannon (Benson), and basically said, ‘Come hell or high water, we need to get that pool open.’ We’re gonna need to get that pool open. We’ll have to get going on training people and advertising for lifeguards. I’m just gonna assume it’s gonna be open; we need to make sure we have the staff this time so we don’t get caught flat-footed like we did last time.”
Getting the pool reopened is one of a number of goals Hansen has for 2021. At the top of the list is figuring out a new home for seniors displaced because of the sale of the MPC. Hansen knows the importance of continuing to move forward with finding that facility — whether it be an addition to a current building, or a new building altogether.
“It’s a big development,” he said.
See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.