Ottertail mayor retires after 34 years in city government
"I was born by that tree over there," Ole gestures out the kitchen window to a snow covered tree in the front yard.
It takes me a few seconds to realize that the notorious jokester is serious. A small wooden house once stood where the tree now grows, he explains, bringing into the kitchen a picture he painted of what the property looked like back in 1933. The painting is evidence that Ottertail's longtime mayor, Raymond "Ole" Mounts, has a hidden artistic talent. Add this to his well-known sense of humor, his affection for family and friends, his many volunteer efforts, and his passion for the city and you get a pretty good idea of who Ole is.
At the end of this year, Ole will retire from his post as mayor of the city of Ottertail. He's been involved in city government since 1976, first as a member of the Ottertail City Council. From 1980 to 1982, Ole stepped in to serve as mayor when the city's existing mayor was battling cancer. In 1982 he was officially elected into office as mayor, a position he's retained for the last 28 years.
"I couldn't get out of there," Ole says with a laugh. "If you ever get on the council, you're stuck."
His term as mayor will officially end on January 1.
"But I keep telling them I can do more from the other side of the table," Ole adds.
Even though he might miss one or two meetings, Ole still plans to attend the council meetings and give his input for city decisions. When current city council member and former Ottertail Fire Chief Myron Lueders begins his term as the new mayor in January, he will have Ole's support and assistance.
"Myron's going to be solid," Ole says with confidence. "And I will help him."
For years, Ole has invested himself into making sure the city runs as properly and efficiently as possible. He says he enjoys looking through the minutes from old council meetings and helping to keep the new city clerks up-to-date. Always willing to help out where there's a need, Ole has also agreed to continue to help the city with some regular maintenance concerns.
"I will keep spraying weeds and cleaning up brush," he confirms.
To honor Ole for his many years of service to the city, the council officially declared Thursday, Dec. 2 as Raymond "Ole" Mounts Day. From 3-5 p.m. that day, a steady stream of citizens, friends, and fellow mayors stopped by the Ottertail City Hall and thanked Ole for his service.
"Everyone at the open house kept coming up to me and saying, 'Now what is Ole going to do now that he's retired?'" Ole's wife Marilyn says. "I said, 'Well, he'll probably do the same thing he's doing now, just without the title.' It's not like we're going to move to Arizona for the winter or anything."
Both Marilyn and Ole have lived in the Ottertail area for all of their lives. In the winter, they've found a new favorite hobby. For hours in the afternoon, the couple plays pool in the basement of their home.
The large green pool table is not the only thing that draws Ole to the basement in the dead of the winter. The basement is also home to his most recent artistic project. Centered behind the pool table on the wood paneled basement wall is a mural Ole has been working on for the past few years. The mural depicts many of the different types of birds and animals native to Minnesota.
"Every once in awhile I think of a new one and add it in," Ole says of his ongoing project.
When he's not busy painting or helping out with city government responsibilities, Ole says he'd like to get more involved with the Ottertail Rod and Gun Club. He's been a member of the organization for years, and has also spent time serving with the Ottertail Lions Club and as a 20-year member with the Ottertail Fire Department.
Looking back over his three decades in city government, Ole says the biggest change he's witnessed is the growth of the city. He's proud to see how strong the city's fire department is today, with impressive coverage and equipment for a small city. Other significant advancements Ole mentions are the agreement with Henning for city water and the street improvement project the council has recently started working on.
Most of all, Ole says he wants to thank members of the community for all of the help they've given to the city over the years.
"The strength of the volunteers sets Ottertail apart from other cities," Ole says. "I've always said the volunteers run the city, not the council."
By his own adage, retirement or not, it appears Ole will be just as instrumental in helping to propel the city of Ottertail into the future.