FARGO — Construction projects — completed, ongoing and planned — as well as the deaths of notable personalities in the past year dominated the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce State of the Cities event held Thursday, Jan. 16, at Fargo's Garden Hilton Inn, where four metro-area mayors recapped 2019 accomplishments and plans for the future.

Much was shared regarding the lasting impact that the late Craig Whitney, president and CEO of the Chamber, has had on that organization and the community as a whole.

West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis dedicated his presentation to the memory of Whitney, who died Dec. 14 at the age of 59.

"My heart is heavy, because that chair is empty," Dardis said, referencing the seat where Whitney traditionally sat during past events hosted by the Chamber.

Board member Tom Dawson gives a tribute to Chamber CEO Craig Whitney, who died in December, at the start of the Chamber's State of the Cities event at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo on Thursday, Jan. 16. David Samson / The Forum
Board member Tom Dawson gives a tribute to Chamber CEO Craig Whitney, who died in December, at the start of the Chamber's State of the Cities event at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo on Thursday, Jan. 16. David Samson / The Forum

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Dardis cited a long list of West Fargo's accomplishments in 2019, including the city being named the safest city in North Dakota for the second year in a row; the establishment of the West Fargo Fire Department as an official city department; expansion of the Rustad Recreation Center and completion of the Sheyenne Street reconstruction project.

Looking to the future, Dardis said one challenge facing West Fargo is how it can best attack infrastructure rebuilding associated with 44 of the city's oldest neighborhoods.

Dilworth Mayor Chad Olson also honored Whitney with his presentation Thursday, and cited a number of accomplishments for Dilworth in the past year.

They included passage of a school referendum that Olson said will ensure that Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School District buildings will be of the same high caliber as the teachers working in them.

Olson also mentioned two other people who died in 2019 who he said had a tremendous impact on the success of Dilworth: Stan Thurlow, Dilworth's longtime city planner, and Don Vogel, who was the city's maintenance manager for many years.

"These gentlemen were like family to me," Olson said.

A school referendum was also on Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd's list of 2019 highlights.

"Kudos to our residents," Judd said, referring to voters who approved a $110 million referendum that will be used to build a new high school on the site of the existing high school, as well as to retrofit the former Sam's Club in Moorhead into a career academy.

Judd described the latter as a game-changer for both the city and the region.

He also noted the completion of the Block E project at Eighth Street and Main Avenue in Moorhead, which features both commercial and housing space.

Judd's slideshow included a humorously brief shot of work progressing on the 21st Street underpass project in Moorhead, completion of which the city has long awaited. "Hopefully, we're going to achieve this getting done. Just saying," Judd said.

When Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney recounted his city's accomplishments in 2019, he made a playful dig at Moorhead with a slideshow shot featuring the newly completed roundabout on Fargo's Main Avenue.

"Mayor Judd, we're done with our project," Mahoney said.

Other high points in the past year cited by Mahoney included:

  • the 52nd Avenue South reconstruction project
  • a new police department headquarters
  • about $110 million worth of improvements to the city's water treatment plant
  • the City Commission's new high-tech meeting chambers

Mahoney said a major item on the horizon is the building of the Red River Valley Water Supply Project, which aims to provide the metro area with access to Missouri River water in times of drought.

"The state of our city is strong," Mahoney concluded.