He’s just a regular guy eager to provide fresh leadershipIf you want a challenger to engage in a knock-down-drag-out fight with incumbent mayor Don Richards, Dan Toland says forget it.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
If you want a challenger to engage in a knock-down-drag-out fight with incumbent mayor Don Richards, Dan Toland says forget it.
That might be how state and national elections are conducted, but Toland has no desire for political combat
“Don’s a nice guy, he’s done a lot for this city. I’m serious about wanting the job, but I’m not going after it by tearing Don down,” says Toland, a 1980 River Falls High School graduate. “I just think it’s time for a new mayor.”
Lest you think Toland is a bland, passive candidate, he adds this about Richards: “Beyond getting another plaque to show off at City Hall that we’re a green city, we need a mayor with more than one focus.”
There you have it. When pressed, Toland will criticize Richards.
“He seems preoccupied with the green aspect,” Toland admits. “And that’s not all bad. I’m not anti-environmental. The more we can do in that area, the better.
“But there are other things to be concerned about. Because of the economy, some people just struggle to put food on the table. Sure it would be great if we could all drive around in cars that get 40 miles per gallon. But we can’t all afford to buy those cars.”
Born in east St. Paul, 49-year-old Toland moved to River Falls at age 10.
Last year he joined the Masons. He has an associate degree from Century College in information technology and telecommunications.
He’s worked cutting meat at EconoFoods in Hudson. He loves motorcycles.
He and some buddies gather occasionally on weekday evenings at a friend’s old barn to drink beer, watch football and play beanbags.
The guys even have an informal club and wear T-shirts with the club’s name: Western Wisconsin Bag Fondlers Association.
“It’s really just an excuse to get together, b.s. and drink a few beers,” Toland said about his fellow bean baggers.
When his kids were younger, Toland coached traveling baseball and soccer. He was a Scout master.
He also ran for school board in the early 1990s. He thought the board needed a younger candidate with kids still in school.
Toland admits he’s not suave. He fretted more about winning the school board election than losing.
“I was uncomfortable talking in front of big groups,” he said. “I worried about getting elected and sitting in front of people and having to give them answers.
“I still get nervous talking about myself. I’m antsy. I fidget and flap my hands around.”
Almost 20 years later, Toland’s ready to give public office another shot.
“I used to tell my kids, don’t complain or grumble about something. Stand up and say or do something about it.”
“Just like when I ran for the school board, I think we need new people to serve on the council, to have some new blood coming on.
“It’s not that things being done now are terrible, but the way of doing them falls into a pattern. We need new ideas and concepts that come from new faces. Otherwise the way our city is run will get stagnant.”
Toland pledges to be transparent and open-minded.
“I want to have a range of options -- no matter how crazy some may seem -- to look at when the council makes decisions,” he said. “I’d like to have regular office hours at City Hall when people can come see me.
“They can also find me here (at the floral shop) and talk about issues. I will have an open-door policy and try to be as available as possible.”
While not retired like Richards, Toland said he has flexible hours in the family’s local business.
“I’m always here in town, all day. I’ve got plenty of time,” he laughs. “I’m like any working stiff with a strong back and a pretty face.”
As mayor, Toland said he would expect City Hall to operate with similar openness and outreach.
“Whether it’s a big pothole in the street or some other problem, I want to see our city respond with quick, straight answers,” he said. “People need to know they can talk to someone in government right away and get prompt responses.”
Toland said his vision for River Falls is to lead and to be envied for that leadership.
“I’d like to make sure our city welcomes new ideas, makes careful, thought-out decisions based on those ideas, and becomes a leader so that other cities look to us and say, ‘We should do that, too.’”
“I want us to promote an atmosphere that is friendly and nice so people who come to River Falls to visit or to do business will want to return. We should market ourselves that way.”
There’s more to the Dan Toland for mayor story. Find it on the front page of the March 22 print edition of the River Falls Journal.