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Wessington Springs to elect new mayor

WESSINGTON SPRINGS -- After seeing Wessington Springs through some of the most notable events in the town's history, Mayor Melissa Mebius is ready to let somebody else take the reins.

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WESSINGTON SPRINGS - After seeing Wessington Springs through some of the most notable events in the town's history, Mayor Melissa Mebius is ready to let somebody else take the reins.

Four years ago, one month into her tenure, a tornado slammed Wessington Springs, leaving a trail of destruction that took much of her time in office to repair.

As her term comes to an end in May, Mebius will not seek re-election, citing "personal changes" and the acceptance of a teaching job in another community. Running for the chance to take her place in an April 10 election are Kathy Voorhees, Joe Hettinger and Paul DiCarlo. Voorhees serves Ward I on the Wessington Springs City Council while Hettinger serves Ward III. DiCarlo is the coordinator of the Wessington Springs Area Chamber Development Corporation.

Whoever wins will have big shoes to fill.

For Mebius, leaving office was a difficult decision, but she feels she accomplished many of the tasks she set out to four years ago, despite spending a large chunk of her time rebuilding following the June 18, 2014, tornado.

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"Of course the tornado stood out and that's one of the bigger things I'll remember, is how the community came together and the support from the entire state of South Dakota," Mebius said this week. "It was interesting to see from behind the scenes how that whole process works."

Also completed under her leadership was a million-dollar Main Street infrastructure project that had been discussed for more than a decade.

The project improved three blocks of the street by implementing new underground water and sewer systems, a new road, sidewalk and lighting. Additionally, it added wheelchair access to each business, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

While that project was being completed, Mebius spearheaded an initiative to tear down nuisance homes in town, and to date 12 homes have been demolished in an effort to beautify the town, she said.

"I wanted to make sure the people in office were accountable, and that's how I ran - I was very straightforward and as transparent as I could be," Mebius said. "People knew how I stood and that I wasn't going to waiver, but also knew those stances were what I truly believed was best for Wessington Springs."

Mebius said much of her success can be traced back to a competent and supportive city council and city employees. Prior to serving as mayor, Mebius spent seven years on the Wessington Springs City Council, so she said she has a unique perspective from both sides, and appreciates the work the people alongside her have done.

Wherever she ends up next, Mebius said she hopes to become involved in city government again, though she might need a brief break.

"It's something I'm very passionate about and I think I now have a great background of experiences, thanks to the people here, that can help in whatever community I am in," she said. "When I turn over my spot in May, it's not going to be easy, and it's not easy working for the people, but I know those here in Wessington Springs have done and will do the very best that they can and that's something to be proud of."

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