Just before meeting with the Times-Record Tuesday, Valley City’s new city commissioner Mary Lee Nielson had given a two hour tour to some out-of-towners interested in possibly putting a movie theater in Valley City.
“I got to listen their perspective in not ever seeing the town before. It just renewed my good feelings about Valley City. We have so much to offer. There’s so many amenities in this town,” Nielson said.
Nielson knows what Valley City has but also what it needs. As city commissioner, she would like to see an improvement in the quality of place in Valley City as well as a permanent solution to flood control.
“We’ve got to make sure that Valley City has a wonderful quality of place so people want to come here,” she said.
Nielson said Valley City has a severe housing shortage, and she will be working with Economic Development trying to find creative ways to get new housing in Valley City.
With two major employers, John Deere and Eagle Creek, expanding their employment, Nielson said it’s important to look at different clientele and the kind of housing needs there are out there.
Nielson has also been working with South Central Regional Council on a housing study for the whole region.
“We want to get a foundation to go to the legislature to talk about housing needs,” she said.
Nielson said with more and more people working, she’d like to see a quality daycare in town as well as safer and improved sidewalks.
“I’m always glad to see everyone out walking, and you need to have safe places to do that,” Nielson said.
Nielson, who is the marketing coordinator for the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway and Valley City Convention Visitors Bureau, said she likes being involved in tourism because “if it’s good for tourists, it’s good for the people at home.”
Both organizations work with the state tourism department and state parks and recreation in promoting the area.
Another issue on the mind of Nielson as well as the rest of the city is flood control, in which she has already been quite active.
Nielson will be attending a meeting with the North Dakota Water Coalition July 10.
“It’s always a challenge to keep the Sheyenne Valley in front of everyone too when there’s so many other big needs out there,” Nielson said about competing with the Fargo diversion and flooding in Minot.
Nielson was elected as city commissioner June 12 along with Madeline Luke. The new commissioners will attend their first regular meeting Monday and will serve four year terms.
Nielson has had past experience with city government and flooding issues. She was a city commissioner from 2004-2006 and served as Valley City’s mayor from 2006-2010, during which the Sheyenne River reached record flood levels in spring 2009.
Nielson and her husband Steve have lived in Valley City and the area all their lives. She graduated from Valley City High School and Valley City State University. They have three grown sons and three grandchildren.
Nielson’s dad, Ty Peterson, was mayor of Valley City in the mid 1970s.
“I hadn’t really considered running for (city commission), but enough people asked me to do it that I said, ‘okay, if you support me, I’ll be here for you,’” said Nielson.