It's Christmas time in the Lakes Area! The lights are lit and hopefully everyone has the Christmas spirit - it is a great time in our area! There are lots of fun activities including: snowmobiling, skiing and ice fishing. There are also lots of indoor activities at our schools and at our senior center, and don't forget the plays at the AAAA.

The Holiday Train is coming to town Thursday, Dec. 13 - a great fundraiser for our food shelf and so wonderful of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Each year they stop in Alexandria and we are so fortunate that we are one of the stops and we get money donated to our food shelf! This year they are stopping again at 8th Avenue at 11:30 a.m., with the show running from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. It is fun to see the train stage flap down and the music begin to play. You can bring donations there if you wish. Or just come and listen to the music and maybe see Santa.

Big news in our community was that Alexandria was named "Retail Community of the Year" by the Minnesota Retail Association. The most outstanding thing about the award is the comments we received with it. We were given this award because of our unique partnerships and it was noted how our community works together. This is the cooperation between the Chamber, the Downtown Merchants Association, Explore Alexandria Tourism and Economic Development. However, these partnerships are a reflection of the cooperation and partnerships that are so important in Alexandria and are what sets us apart from other areas of the state and keeps us viable and unique as the head of the Minnesota Retailers Association noted. It has been a tough time in the retail business here and across the state so local cooperation and partnerships are what will keep Alexandria thriving.

We have have worked for months on our budget and final budget is up for approval at our next meeting. For the next couple months, we move into snow removal and road maintenance mode so give a special thanks our public works employees and be kind to them.

Our police are gearing for body cams; they are coming on or about Dec. 19. Shortly thereafter, you will notice our officers with the cameras on. They also have the cameras in the cars and on their Tasers if they are used. They are there for protection of our officers and protection of our citizens. It is a win-win and we are ready to get them in use.

Our officers will also soon be sporting a new clothing look with vests that support their gear and take some of the weight from around their waists and distribute it more evenly. So you may notice a slightly new look for our officers and that is the reason.

As for the persons of my article I think it appropriate to start with the passing this past week of our 41st President, George H.W. Bush, a man who called for a kinder, gentler nation, someone who no matter party affiliation you had to admire for his work with others. I would like to give a thank you for their service to my outgoing council members, Bob Kuhlman and Virgil Batesole, who have served four and eight years respectively. Public service is an admirable and often difficult undertaking and I cannot underscore the importance of having individuals step up and get involved. Good sound policy starts at the local level most of the time! Also, a nod of thanks to the outgoing county board members, Owen Miller and Jim Stratton, who working with the city, have been influential to help get our voice heard at the Legislature and cooperate where good local policy can be made. My thanks to them all for throwing their hats in the arena and representing their citizens with dignity and fortitude.

Lastly, wishing everyone in the Alexandria Lakes Area a Merry Christmas and a great 2019. We are looking forward to amazing things in the new year as Alexandria is ready with many new and exciting projects. Stay tuned and stay warm!

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Sara Carlson is the mayor of Alexandria. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.