Most U.S. mayors would give their right arms for Mike Huether's problems. The 50-year-old Democratic mayor of Sioux Falls runs a city blessed with consistently low unemployment--the current rate is 3.5 percent--multiple thriving industries, and few of the woes that plague larger urban areas. A former executive who spent 15 years with Citibank, one of South Dakota's largest employers, Huether oversees city coffers that keep growing, thanks to economic prosperity in the region and a population boom. The downside? Managing the city's growth to provide for all those new residents, and making sure that low unemployment rates don't scare away employers who worry they can't fill positions.
Huether recently sat down to talk with National Journal's Amy Sullivan in his downtown office. Edited excerpts follow.
This is my first time back in Sioux Falls in more than a decade. The last time I was here, Citibank was really the only game in town. What's happened to the city's economic base since then?
You're right. I graduated in 1984 from South Dakota State University, and at that time, the opportunities were limited, except for this new business in town. That was one of the biggest wins for the city. This town was built on agriculture, and it's still a big part of why we're successful. But then we got into banking--with Citibank, First Premier, Wells Bank, Capital One. We also became a retail and, yes, even tourism, mecca for this region; that includes things like conventions and conferences. Then you add the other leg that really had a strong role during the recession, and that was health care.