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BEST MAYOR Minneapolis 2004 - Lee Hunt

Readers' Choice: R.T. Rybak

If we ever have a reason to think about small-town mayors, it's usually either as lovable town-dad sorts or vaguely corrupt, Mayor Quimby-style politicos--not particularly polarizing types. But Lee Hunt of Lake Elmo, a town of 7,500 just southeast of St. Paul mostly known for its enormous regional park, has been nothing if not controversial thanks to a protracted fight with the Metropolitan Council over proposed development requirements. In 2002, Hunt and his City Council decided that, instead of developing into a suburb, exurb, or edge city, they wanted to retain their rural character, encouraging limited expansion along their two highway corridors but refusing to cede control of infrastructure development to the Met Council. The battle has since reached the Minnesota Supreme Court, with the recently reelected Hunt spearheading the town's efforts to remain off the grid and drawing the ire of council chairs (and, to be fair, some of his constituents). The appeals, legislative gambits, and sniping continue with no clear victor, but one thing is clear: Whether you think Lake Elmo is making a valiant, necessary stand against sprawl or exhibiting gated-community snobbery at its worst, it's impossible not to admire Hunt's devotion to his cause.

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