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No need to use the “m” word, he’s ‘still just Dave’

Dave Hovel, while shown hatless, wears one hat for his job at River Falls City Hall and another hat when he goes home to Prescott. He says he “feels at home” wearing either hat. (River Falls Journal photo by Phil Pfuehler)

River Falls has another mayor in its midst: Dave Hovel, city building inspector who beat the incumbent (717-572) in last month’s election to become mayor of Prescott.

Hovel said he admires River Falls Mayor Dan Toland’s easygoing, down-to-earth ways.

“Someone greeted him as mayor and he said, ‘Don’t call me mayor, my name is Dan,’” Hovel said. “That’s me, too. Don’t look at the title. I’m still just Dave.”

The 51-year-old Hovel said he’s humble and doesn’t seek attention.

“I’m not a spotlight person, but I’m also not afraid to stir the pot and ask tough questions,” he said. “I don’t want to make a big thing about being mayor. I’m not the king -- I don’t give orders. I’m here to serve the public.”

Hovel was hired in 1997 to serve the public in River Falls as building inspector.

He was born and raised in Prescott. His grandfather Ben was a town judge there and also mayor.

Hovel’s dad, Jim, was a banker in Prescott and Ellsworth.

Hovel followed in banking, working in Eagan, Minn., before returning to Prescott where he was hired as deputy clerk/treasurer/zoning administrator.

His next job was in River Falls. He joined Joe Lenzen as the city’s second building inspector.

Hovel said those inspection duties have prepped him for responsibilities on the Prescott City Council. Before becoming Prescott mayor, he was elected twice as a council member.

“You can’t always make everyone happy,” Hovel said about local politics. “You can be sympathetic to people, be a good listener, be flexible, but there are rules and ordinances to follow.”

Hovel said his recent plunge into Prescott politics was natural. Prescott is his hometown and he’s civic minded, having served there as a hunting-and-safety instructor and also a board member for St. Joseph Catholic School.

“I like my community,” he says.

Hovel said Prescott needs to be “more pro-active” with developers.

“It’s not just about their making money and the city giving away the farm in the form of TIF districts and subsidies,” he said. “It’s about the bigger picture and what’s best for the community as a whole.”

Yet Hovel says growth -- both residential and commercial -- is inevitable and likely the biggest focus for Prescott.

There’s more to this story. Find it in the print edition of the May 15 River Falls Journal.