Commissioner Mike Opat Reflects on Three Decades of Service at Hennepin County
Mike Opat represented District 1 on the Hennepin County Commission for 28 years and worked for the county before that. He’s proud of the work to build Target Field as well as how the project brought money back locally in the form of Hennepin Youth Sports Grants. He’s also proud of the refurbishment of Victory Memorial Parkway. And Blue Line Light Rail? Opat is optimistic that is on its way too.
“It’s been a long time 28 years as a commissioner and 39 with the county so I felt like it was time to do something else,” said Opat.
Victory Memorial Parkway is a memorial to Hennepin County people who died in World War One. Because of the tie with county residents, Opat was able to get the county involved in a multi-million dollar refurbishment which wrapped up in 2011.
“I’m very proud of this one,” said Opat. “It is absolutely fantastic. I thought there would be vandalism that would happen with panels, but no one has touched it. I see people out here learning something everyday, yeah so I’m proud of this one.”
Opat might be remembered most as the architect of the plan to build Target Field. He says that project speaks for itself–the baseball stadium just needs sports fans next year.
But the Hennepin County Youth Sports Grants that are funded through proceeds from the sales tax surcharged used to build Target Field? That has been very rewarding too. Every suburb in his district has seen dollars go into new equipment or refurbishment, like Lee Park in Robbinsdale, soccer fields in Brooklyn Park, lights in Crystal, the New Hope Pool or Ice Arena, or new lights in Osseo.
“Every city has benefitted from it,” said Opat. “They are things that inner ring, blue collar cities would not be able to afford.”
Blue Line Light Rail Project
Opat was also a very outspoken supporter of the Blue Line Light Rail project and is somewhat philosophical about leaving that project on the table.
“Hennepin County is not a project that is ever going to be done, so whenever I left there would be a project undone,” said Opat. “But I think it’s on the way now.”
Opat says support from Governor Walz as well as Senator Amy Klobuchar have helped fuel support behind the line that, in his opinion, is needed perhaps more so than the other light rail lines. He even believes the new route could be a better one.
Opat’s advice to his successor, Jeffrey Lunde of Brooklyn Park, is to be patient, learn the county, and get out and listen to people.
As for his reflection on his time serving the people of District 1, Opat is grateful for the experiences he’s had and the people he’s met.
“Mostly gratitude,” said Opat. “I’m very grateful for the time I’ve had.”