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It was a tough decision, said David Junker, but he'll step down from the Stillwater City Council at the end of the year after three decades of public service in the city where he grew up. The former US Bank and Anytime Fitness executive retired in 2020 and said he and his wife would like to spend more time at their home in Naples, Fla.

"For half my life I've been serving the city either on the council or on one of our commissions," said Junker, 67, who first served on the city's parks commission in 1989. He twice ran for mayor, but lost, and has 33 years of time on city commissions and the City Council.

Junker said he's proud of how the city handled the COVID pandemic, when it opened on-street seating for restaurants and promoted new winter events to keep tourism dollars coming in. He's also happy with how the plans for new riverfront parks and trails are coming along, with a $6 million state grant awarded in last year's bonding session for the plans. The city needs another $6.2 million to complete the work, and voters this fall will be asked to pass a local sales tax of .5%, or .50 cents on a $100 tab, to raise the money.

The city added housing downtown during Junker's time on the council, another change he's proud of. "Up until 2003 there was no one living in downtown Stillwater except for a few apartments above a few buildings," he said. The council in his time approved three developments on the city's north end at the site of the state's first prison.

There's more ahead for the city council as development continues along Highway 36 and Manning Avenue, and a possible expansion of the St. Croix Valley Recreation Center to include curling, but Junker said it's time to move on.

"There's never, ever a great time to get in and a great time to get out," he said.

Junker said he was first inspired to serve the city by watching his dad, the late David "Choc" Junker, who was mayor from 1974 to 1982. "He was the most honest guy I knew and he listened to people," said Junker. Choc died in 2014. "My whole thing was I respected people in leadership tremendously," he said. "Do everything you can and work hard and respect the opinions and we're not going to agree on everything by any means, but listen to everyone and the way they voted."

Two candidates are now vying for Junker's seat: Lindsay Belland, a University of Minnesota Foundation event planner, and Sirid Kellermann, a biotechnology consultant and the chair of the city's Human Rights Commission.