Nancy Ngo, Pioneer Press
September 12, 2003

Talk to people in Roseville about Mayor John Kysylyczyn's four years in office, and you'll get a variety of adjectives. Productive. Disastrous. Inspirational. Combative.

But whatever his long-term legacy, his presence on the primary ballot Tuesday -- he lost a bid for City Council -- is being credited with spurring record voter turnout.

About 26 percent of registered voters showed up at the polls, the most the city has seen since 1965, which is the Farthest back the city tracks voting numbers.

And more candidates than usual filed as well. Five candidates ran for mayor, more than any year since 1991.

"I think our mayor is a flash point for the community, and I think people were responding," said Carolyn Curti, Roseville communications specialist.

The primary numbers are reflective of the kind of civic involvement that even the mayor's detractors admit he inspired during a term marked by numerous spats and controversies.

Dick Lambert, who called for Kysylyczyn's resignation midway through his term because of alleged ethics violations (of which the mayor was eventually cleared), said whether someone agreed with Kysylyczyn or not, his term in office has been good for the city.

"The silver lining to this affair is the whole idea that it's bringing so many more people from the community together. I've met more people in the last two years basically because of him, more than I have in my whole 18 years living in Roseville," Lambert said. "Right now, Roseville is in a win-win situation."

Al Kehr, who has lived in Roseville for 51 years and has supported Kysylyczyn since his bid for mayor in 1999, describes him as the most intelligent mayor the city has ever had. But he said it was his combativeness that was his demise.

"He accomplished more in one year than any other mayor has done in their entire tenure as mayor," Kehr said. "He was knowledgeable. He was terrific. However, there's one thing that I disagreed with him on ... he was too combative, and that's what killed him."

Kehr, a former City Council member, said part of Kysylyczyn's legacy will be getting a referendum passed for a new public safety and public works center.

"That's being modernized. And he did it without raising taxes," Kehr said.

Though partly inspired to run for office out of dissatisfaction with the mayor's leadership, Amy Ihlan -- who beat Kysylyczyn in the council primary by 466 votes -- said others, such as individuals who spoke at public meetings and faced questioning by the mayor, were probably deterred.

"I'd say he's going to be remembered as someone who was a lightning rod for controversy," she said. "I would say overall he discouraged more public participation than he encouraged."

Kysylyczyn freely admits being a lightning rod. "I believe that you make your position known. You don't hide, and you stand by your convictions." He said his philosophy is the same as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: "Consensus is the absence of leadership."

He said he is most proud of passing the referendum for the public safety and public works facility, and he also lists lowering property taxes, creating citizen committees to bring more people into civic work and increasing the diversity of appointees to citizen advisory commissions as accomplishments.

Bill Majerus, chair of the Roseville Housing and Redevelopment Authority, said Kysylyczyn's formation of the organization was essential to the city and will be felt for years to come.

Kysylyczyn, 31, decided to run for City Council instead of mayor because he said he wanted to devote more time to raising his 6-month-old daughter, Sara. That will occupy most of his time now that he is leaving public service.

"I am a full-time dad. That's the job that I will have," he said. "Some people have said it will be for the next 18 years, some people have said for the rest of my life."

He also plans to finish a home renovation project he has been working on for five years. He said it should have been done a couple of years ago but his efforts were derailed by mayoral duties.

And he said he still plans to be involved in politics. He said he is going to manage a campaign in a nonpartisan race in 2004. He declined to name the candidate, but said it will be a city or county race.

November 1999: City of Roseville critic John Kysylyczyn (pronounced kissiLISHin) wins race for Roseville mayor declaring "a new policy of honesty, respect and integrity."

2000: A series of confrontational and contentious City Council meetings begins the year, topped off with a written "directive" issued by the Roseville Citizens Council for Fair and Open Government, asking the council and Kysylyczyn to be civil, and a request by the mayor for a police escort for city meetings.

January 2001: Mayor will not sign a citizen's pledge that requests the disclosure of all his financial donors in any future campaigns.

March 2001: Resident Dick Lambert reads list of complaints against the mayor, calling for his resignation. Lambert questions mayor's ethical conduct regarding actions taken as a registered lobbyist for the city and reiterates concerns about the mayor's refusal to disclose his campaign contributors.

May 2001: Roseville Ethics Commission continues to review Lambert's allegations. Concern centers on whether mayor helped a developer lobby for changes to state tax-increment financing law that might have hurt the city and residents.

June 2001: Investigator is chosen by ethics commission to assist in the ongoing probe.

Sept. 2001: Investigator report clears the mayor, but ethics commission still has questions.

October 2001: Seven-month probe into alleged misconduct by Kysylyczyn ends when city's ethics commission rules that evidence in the case is "deficient" to indicate any violations.

November 2001: City Council approves ethics commission decision but expresses its disapproval of Kysylyczyn.

February 2002: Citizens task force named to review the role of the city's ethics commission based on recommendation of Kysylyczyn.

March 2002: Dick Lambert, who filed a 2001 ethics complaint against mayor, files another questioning mayor's "unilateral" approach to reviewing city's ethics commission. He later withdraws it.

May 2002: Kysylyczyn unexpectedly hands over his civic duties to the two newest members of the City Council and to the city manager "until further notice."

July 2002: Another Roseville resident, Lillian Chiarella, files new ethics complaint against Kysylyczyn, alleging that he broke state law and the city's ethics code when he voted on the city's decision to pay legal bill he incurred in the previous ethics investigation. The Ethics Commission sends complaint to prosecutor.

July 2002: City Ethics Commission abolished by council vote.

September 2002: Kysylyczyn is charged with criminal conflict-of-interest and misconduct by a public official for voting to pay his own legal bills. If convicted of the two gross misdemeanors, he faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $3,000 fine for each charge.

November 2002: Court case against mayor gets under way.

March 2003: Ramsey County judge dismisses official misconduct and conflict-of-interest charges, citing "insufficient probable cause."

Sept. 9, 2003: In a primary election for City Council in which the top two finishers advance to the general election, Kysylyczyn finishes third.

-- Kathleen Rysgaard, Pioneer Press

Nancy Ngo can be reached at nngo@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-2149.

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