Winona’s new mayor resigns, says she can’t fix corruption

Published on Tuesday, 29 July 2014 22:22 - Written by FAITH HARPER

Winona’s mayor turned in a letter of resignation Monday after less than three months in office.

DeDe Stroud was elected to office on May 10, defeating incumbent Rusty Smith, who headed the city for eight years.

The city is plagued with a list of issues, including unpaid bills, possible missing funds, an out-of-compliance wastewater plant, leaks in its gas delivery system and public animosity toward its police department.

Mayor Stroud submitted a simple letter of resignation, effective immediately, said Bryan Richards, the city’s police chief and city administrator. Richards said the letter was simple, resigning immediately and declining to have an exit interview. She turned in her keys to city hall and the city iPad the same day.

The city council called a special meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Winona Community Center, 520 Dallas St., to accept her resignation.

Mayor Stroud said she ran for office because she thought she could help clean up the list of ongoing issues in the city but cited a lack of cooperation from council members.

“I’m more convinced now than ever that there is corruption going on there,” she said. “That was the reason for my final decision to walk away from it. I couldn’t do anything about (it), and I refused to be a part of what they are doing because I know it’s wrong — the citizens know it’s wrong. I’m very grateful for the people that did vote for me and supported me. We all expected something to change, but it didn’t, and it’s getting worse.”

She left a June meeting in tears, and numerous residents took their five minutes of public comment time in the meeting to show support for the new mayor.

Resident Lisa LaFrance said in June that the voters intended to send a message when none of the incumbents were re-elected.

“I think the voters thought they were very clear,” she said. “It wasn’t specific individuals; we have problems with how the city government as a whole was functioning. There was a lack of integrity in some areas, a lack of accountability in some areas and a lack of professionalism in some areas. ... It doesn’t do any good if we have rotating chairs up there if a message is not put across.”

After the meeting, Mayor Pro-tem Earl Brown said the council members were unsure of why Mayor Stroud left the meeting, and said the council was trying to work diligently with her. He said several projects, including hosting a community day in late June to put finishing touches on the city’s community park were some of Mayor Stroud’s ideas.

Brown declined to comment on Mayor Stroud’s allegations of corruption, but said the council would continue to work diligently to get the city back on the right track.

He said the community has been very vocal on the direction they wish to see the city go in, and he has confidence in the council and city administrators to turn things around.

“It will be business as usual,” he said. “I think we will go forward and try to accomplish what the citizens want and get out of the mess (the city is) in.”