The city of Little Falls accepted a fellowship position from the Lead for America (LFA) program and their partner agency Lead for Minnesota for at least two years.

The position, filled by Phoebe Ward, is intended to support the community through connection and by providing resources to help businesses and/or organizations through the city and its economic development partners. Some projects Ward may focus on include those out of community engagement meetings like Local Foods, Local Places and OurTown 56345.

“The intern in year one is to be an advocate to continue supporting the community with our COVID-19 relief programs that we have. Working with businesses and nonprofits … as a connector to programs that we have and opportunities that we have and even providing information back to us for the city to see how those are working,” said City Administrator Jon Radermacher.

In the past, Radermacher said the city has seen an importance in several projects throughout the community, but lacked the staff to focus solely on such projects. The fellowship position, he said, will provide an opportunity to dedicate the time to those areas in the community without taking away from other city responsibilities.

“I think we can really start moving the needle forward to create hope for these businesses to survive and thrive in these coming years,” Radermacher said.

LFA is a nonprofit organization that connects recent graduates and local governments to advance leadership development. The organization will pay the fellow a month stipend for housing and healthcare while the city must pay a portion for cost of living and other supports.

The total projected cost to the city is about $32,081 per year, Radermacher said. The city may pay this sum through various sources of funding such as grants; the remainder will come from the Economic Development Authority budget. Sourcewell has committed a $10,000 grant per year to help the city’s endeavors and there is possibly another $5,000 in grant funding available from the Initiative Foundation.

If the city receives the funding it seeks, it would pay $17,081 for the first year of the fellowship and $20,081 the second year, but these costs may change based on future funding opportunities.

Ward, set to start in September at the latest, is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a master’s in environmental conversation with a focus on conservation planning and communication. She has experience working with businesses and local governments through the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) as a Minnesota GreenCorps member.

When asked what would happen after her two years of work in the city, Ward said she was originally committed to staying in the state and, if circumstance allowed, she would consider staying in the Little Falls area as well.

Each month Ward will submit a progress report to the city on her work in the community.

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