Dr Bob Baer elected to Dickinson City Commission after Wolla quits – The Dickinson Press
DICKINSON — Following the June 14 primary election, the City of Dickinson will soon swear in Dr. Robert “Bob” Baer as its new commissioner. With the departure of Commissioner Nikki Wolla, Baer won an undisputed race for the open seat on Tuesday with 1,160 votes.
Although originally from Taylor, Wolla has lived in Dickinson since 1986. She began her tenure at the City of Dickinson in 2018. In a previous Dickinson Press article, Wolla noted that she wanted to be involved in local politics to make a difference.
“I had no reason to say no,” Wolla said. “If you want to be part of the change, you have to be involved, and I want to be a good role model for my daughter.”
Wolla, who is an insurance advisor with Choice Insurance’s benefits division, has served as a director on the board of Oreo’s Animal Rescue since about 2011 and volunteered for the organization three years prior. She has also volunteered with the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce on the Ambassadors Committee and is part of the Power of 100 Women Who Care group.
Baer, a psychologist at the Dickinson Family Counseling Center who has attended Dickinson town meetings for the past two years, said it was time to serve the community in a “civilian end.”
“I have seen this community grow. I saw the good; I saw the harm and felt like maybe I could make a difference from a more social aspect – being a psychologist (and) bringing something different to the table that isn’t there right now” , Baer said. “The other stewards are great, but I think there was a piece missing. So I decided to throw my hat in the ring and see if I could get elected and see if I could make a difference.
Baer and his wife Susan are both from Pennsylvania. But on a whim, they took a road trip and traveled to Western Edge, thinking at the time that they would eventually end up near their homeland. Nineteen years later, the Baers fell in love with Dickinson and continue to call it home.
As one of the first commissioners with disabilities in the town of Dickinson, Baer hopes to use his platform to involve people in their local town government.
“It’s pretty awesome. I’m really excited,” he said. “I’ve never let my disability interfere with the goals I set for myself; it never has. so everything as a challenge and I am delighted to embark on this new adventure.
“…A lot of people are hesitant to get involved. It doesn’t hurt to get involved. If you want to make a change, you can do it no matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you are physically, socio-economically, whatever. You can make a change if you are willing to be part of it.
Since 1989, Baer has worked as a psychologist, providing various types of counseling services to the public. He has been active in the Dickinson community, from Queen of Peace Catholic Church to Dickinson Masonic Lodge #32, and noted that this lends credibility to his accessibility. As commissioner, Baer said he plans to set up a quarterly coffee hour on the road for the public to meet with him and voice their concerns.
“I like working with people. I like talking to people. I like listening. And so, one of my other interests that I feel good about is mediation – finding common ground,” he noted. “And I think that’s what prepared me to be able to take on this position and do a good job in it.”
Baer thinks about ways to develop the city
Baer’s three main concerns as the new commissioner are to maintain overall safety within the community, to stimulate business in the town, and to assess the financial needs of the town of Dickinson. To keep families and businesses around, Baer encourages the city to continue to improve services for its first responders, from law enforcement to fire and paramedics.
“Of course, the other thing is the financial needs of the city and making sure the city spends taxpayer dollars responsibly,” he noted. “I think in some places we get too involved in some projects that ended up costing the city a lot more than they should have. And I would just, as I would say, ‘cut the fat’, and cut some wasteful spending and use it in areas where that money would be more wisely spent.”
Bringing new businesses from more restaurants to shops in Dickinson is vital to developing the town, Baer said, noting that they shouldn’t all be oil-related. The city should also focus more on its artistic community, he added.
“Instead of a cinema, I would like to see an art theater here. I’m big on the arts,” Baer said. “When I first moved here, Dickinson seemed to have so much more artistic opportunities and I don’t see that anymore. We have to bring that back. And now that we have other cultures here, it would be really nice to be able to explore their art and culture and provide more opportunities for art, exhibitions, plays, musicals, things like that. I think that’s what will bring more and more people downtown and in the city by offering more artistic events.
Another aspiration that Baer says will benefit the city is a new hub for public transportation, whether that means making the airport international or bringing back rail service that connects Billings to Fargo. Infrastructure is also essential for the city, he added.
As a psychologist, Baer would like to address the city’s overall mental health needs and establish a permanent homeless shelter. Despite an increase in mental health services, Baer believes there is an underserved population.
“In all areas, everyone needs to be served who needs it. We’ve seen an increase in suicides. We have a drug problem. We have a homelessness problem – (which is) something that Dickinson doesn’t haven’t seen in a very long time,” he said, explaining that homelessness has become more apparent over the past decade.
Importance of getting involved
Fluent on the main message of political participation, Baer admitted it’s going to be a learning curve, but he’s up for the challenge.
“…It’s a great community and I love Dickinson. We have to move Dickinson forward, but we have to do it together,” he said. “We can’t do it (with) one person. We need the whole community to move this town forward.
Baer will be officially sworn in at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 28 at City Hall.