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Ella Dotzler: Opening the door of city government to young people of Big Lake

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Ella Dotzler

Ella Dotzler listens to members of the Big Lake City Council at the 8 meeting of the city council. Ella has been appointed by the city council as its student liaison.


 Ella Dotzler is focused on being the best she can be.

She also wants her hometown to be the best it can be.

Now the 16-year-old Big Lake resident will be able to reach those goals as the student liaison to the Big Lake City Council.

“I’ve always thought I could do more to improve Big Lake,” said Ella.

That’s saying a lot from a girl who serves on the student council at Big Lake High School, is a team leader on the high school tennis team, and is a leader with her ballet troupe, the Vaganova Ballet. Ella also volunteers at the Guardian Angels Care Center where she organizes activities for the senior care center’s residents.

Ella will also be Big Lake’s first high school student who serving as an election judge later this fall.

“I look for the most effective ways to improve Big Lake any way I can,” Ella said.

“I want to help Big Lake be the best it can be,” she said.

With that in mind, Ella approached Big Lake City Hall with an idea.

What if the City Council had a student on board to help its members address issues that affect the city’s youth?

Mayor Mike Wallen and City Administrator Clay Wilfahrt were intrigued.

They scheduled a meeting with Ella. They walked away from the meeting impressed and ready to find her a role within city government.

Ella says her goal mirrored that of the two city leaders: involving more people Ella’s age in the happenings of the city.

“People my age are blind to how government affects my generation,” Ella said.

“Even though they can’t vote or actively participate in city government, its actions still affect them” she said.

Ella was excited that Wallen and Wilfahrt saw the value in having a student liaison. 

“I went into this not expecting much and came out with a great opportunity to get involved in my community,” she said.

That includes increasing student engagement, helping extending the program out to future student liaisons, and working on a yet-to-be-determined special project, Wilfahrt says.

Nig Lake High School Principal Bob Dockendorf says Ella is the ideal person for the position.

That’s why he recommended Ella for the post, he said.

“Mention her name, and I smile,” Dockendorf said. “She’s a class act.”

Dockendorf sees Ella as a mover and shaker who will excel in creating strong leadership.

“She has learned the skills to be a self-advocate for herself,” Dockendorf said.

“She’s one of those kids who gets it,” he added.

That, she does.

That’s signified by her participation in Congressman Tom Emmer’s “Young Women In Leadership” program the past three years where she has been able to development connections with influential women in her varied areas of interestr.

“It has been a great experience talking with successful women who are also successful leaders,” Ella said.

Wallen remembers the first time he met Ella when she met with the Mayor and Wilfahrt.

He says he was impressed with Ella then, and as he has gotten to know her better, he is more impressed with her now.

Wallen says over the course of his time involved in city government, a number of students expressed an interest in being involved with city government.

“This is the first time an individual put some teeth into the bite,” Wallen said.

He applauds Ella for doing that, he said.

Ella, who wants to attend college to study political science on they way to earning a law degree, says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s going to take a lot of time, but I’m definitely up to it,” Ella said.

Ella says by the time she completes the program and heads off to college, she will have achieved another goal important to her and her quest for that coveted politcal science degree.

“I will know how to effectively communicate with leaders and politicians,” she said.

But that will be after Ella Dotzler effectively paves the way for other students to follow in her footsteps.

The future success of the program rests in her hands.

Creating the road for the next person is a wonderful opportunity, Mayor Wallen said.

“I have nothing but the upmost of faith in your ability to do it,” Wallen said of Ella. 

Reach Jeff Hage at



Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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