Mayor of Pipestone: Plenty to brag about in city
PIPESTONE — For a town with a population of 4,317, Pipestone shows that small-town America is still alive and well.
“We are small-town America, where businesses and organizations collaborate and advance together,” Pipestone Mayor Laurie Ness said. “We have rising incomes and people are optimistic about our community, its youth and future.”
Ness, who also is the director of compliance health information services for Pipestone County Medical Center and Family Clinic Avera, is currently serving her third term as mayor. She has been a resident of Pipestone for more than 20 years.
“I think I have changed a lot from my first term and now where I am today,” she noted. “I think I went into this a little bit unprepared. Some of the first things I had to deal with as being mayor were pretty challenging, but I think I have grown quite a bit.”
Ness said her leadership in the community began after attending a Blandin leadership program. The community leadership program offered by the Blandin Foundation helps rural leaders develop and enhance the skills, knowledge and relationships they need to build and sustain healthy communities.
“There was about 24 of us who attended this week long retreat, and after we all got back I was asked if I wanted to run for mayor, and I think it gave me the extra push to just go for it.”
She is also chairwoman of Kiwanis, past chairwoman of the United Way, chairwoman of Pipestone Inc., and involved in a parishioner ministry group.
“These are things I truly believe in, and I wouldn’t spend this time in different organizations if I didn’t believe this was a great community,” Ness said.
She elaborated on how Pipestone is booming in tourism and events, and how the town continues to thrive economically.
“I think what inspires me to make things better is our Pipestone Going Forward group,” said Ness. “They work on projects helping the beautification of our downtown and how we can make life a little easier for our citizens.”
“We also have a great opportunity with our national monument here that brings people in from all over the world,” she said. “It really adds to our downtown district and our tourism.”
Pipestone National Monument brings in 60,000 to 100,000 visitors each year, according to Ness.
“Visitors to the monument also support our four hotels, including the historic Calumet and the brand-new Crossings,” she said. “I think our interlinking bike paths also draw in tourists.
“I love the downtown and the history that goes with this town,” she noted. “The native history that goes along with this town is a big chunk of history that I find fascinating.”
The Casey Jones bike trail and the historic U.S. 75 King of Trails are bringing in three bike tours that will either pass through or start in Pipestone.
“The TRAM bike ride that raises money for multiple sclerosis is starting in Pipestone, which will bring in 1,500 bicyclists,” Ness said. “There are also two other smaller tours that will be through Pipestone. So, we’re spending a lot of time with the Pipestone Living Group developing our trails and expanding them.”
Pipestone is also home to many festivals and celebrations throughout the year that draw in crowds from all over.
“I am personally involved in the Civil War Days, which is such a big event that it is only held every other year,” explained Ness. “It draws in over 3,000 visitors, including about 300 re-enactors.”
The city also hosts an annual car cruise, the Red Hat Extravaganza and the Water Tower festival.
In addition to Pipestone’s rich tourism attractions and festivals, the city is a booming agri-business community.
“Our internationally known veterinary clinic is doing animal-related business all over the world, with many people from other countries coming here to Pipestone to visit the clinic and see how they do it,” Ness said. “The clinic also employs over 500 employees in the area.”
J&B Meats of Pipestone also employs about 200 people, and Pipestone is home to the seventh-largest hog operation in the U.S., Pipestone Systems.
The small-town life is what drew Ness to Pipestone, and she there’s no place quite like her longtime home.
“I’m from the Twin Cities so I still have a lot of friends and family up there, and I hear about some of the stuff that their kids went through, as far as school goes, and that stuff just doesn’t happen here,” she explained. “Every sport or any school activity my kids tried out for, they made the team and participated. You don’t have to audition for things or worry about not being able to do something you want to do like you do in a big city school.”
While Ness is focused on expanding Pipestone, she encourages all folks from small towns to support the town they live in and help them grow.
“I don’t like when people say ‘Southwest Minnesota is never going to grow, so why bother?’” Ness said. “We should want to make this area a great place to raise our kids and build a better community for our young people growing up in it.”
Daily Globe Reporter
Erin Trester may be reached