Omerza takes reins of LMC

Ely council member now president of Minnesota cities organization

by Tom Coombe -

Heidi Omerza will be a voice for all of Minnesota’s cities over the next 12 months, but the longtime Ely council member says she’ll bring a unique perspective to her new role as president of the League of Minnesota Cities.
“I am giving the league a very different perspective being from a small community,” Omerza said Tuesday, less than two weeks after being installed as LMC president. “They’re going to be learning what it’s like to drive so many miles.”
Omerza, who ascended to the presidency June 21 at the group’s annual conference in St. Cloud, is now the voice of an organization that represents more than 800 MInnesota cities.
She’ll advocate for the group with lawmakers in St. Paul and attend functions both across the state and beyond.
Omerza’s new role is also good for Ely’s economy as she is bringing more than 40 LMC board members and staff to town in September for a retreat to be held at the Grand Ely Lodge.
A city council member since 2007, Omerza has been on the LMC board the last eight years and is the first Ely representative to ever lead the group.
“Pretty much every city belongs to the League,” said Omerza. “They insure most cities. They advocate for most cities and they educate most cities on everything needed to run a city. They are the go-to organization.”
The LMC has paid staff, but Omerza serves a key role as “being the voice of the league.”
“It’s everything from welcoming everybody on to committees to going all over the state to talk about what’s important to Cities, and St. Paul and the legislative stuff especially, although we are non-partisan.”
In addition to the retreat in Ely, Omerza will also help host a series of LMC regional conferences, taking place all across the state at eight locations in October.
The LMC president is also responsible for an initiative, according to Omerza, and she’ll double down on a focus started by her predecessor, mayor Jo Emerson of White Bear Lake.
“Last year she talked about bringing the next generation into government work,” said Omerza. “Making sure we are bringing the next generation in, and making sure we are engaging everybody into the next level, making sure our boards and commissions are full, and making sure that people who are elected are not one-issue people. We’re very fortunate in Ely to not really have that, but across the state that’s not necessarily true.”
Omerza is also scheduled to travel both to Washington, D.C., and to Los Angeles in her role as state president.
The late Frank Salerno climbed the LMC board hierarchy but fell short of the presidency before leaving city office briefly during the mid-1990s.
Omerza has moved up the ranks and now has climbed to the top spot, which she’ll hold until 2019.
Another year on the LMC board as past president will follow before Omerza will depart from the group as one of its longest-tenured board members.
She plans to make Ely’s impact known.
“This is important for Ely,” she said. “This is the first time a president has come from such a small city and I am going to try and bring a unique perspective.”
Based in St. Paul, the LMC advocates for Minnesota cities at the state capitol, serves as an insurance carrier and provides staff and resources for everything from policy development and risk management to legal services.
According to a news release, board members are “responsible for governing the League with the best interests of all Minnesota cities as their first priority.”
An Ely council member since 2007, Omerza is no stranger to St. Paul or statewide causes.
She frequently lobbies for Ely interests and issues with state lawmakers and is the former president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, a group that lobbies for rural cities.