By: Ellen Windels
Harley Droba will serve his second term as mayor of
International Falls after winning the local election in November.
The Falls High Ink conducted an interview with Mayor Droba as
an introduction into who he is and how his mayorship will
Please provide a short introduction of yourself, including
your history with International Falls:
My name is Harley Droba, a 1996 graduate of FHS. I joined the US Army upon my graduation. I was trained as a 31R “multichannel and tropospheric scatter communications systems operator/maintainer, a fancy way to say I worked with satellite communications. In 2003 I moved back to International Falls. I have worked/managed both the Coffee Landing and the Espresso Lane over the last 17 years. Eight years ago, I felt compelled to run for ISD 361 School Board, I lost by 100 votes. Two years later I ran for City Council and I have served as a City Councilor up until the untimely death of my predecessor Mayor Bob Anderson. I was appointed Mayor on Oct 1, 2019 and have served in that capacity since.
What are some activities you enjoy doing in our area?
We all have reasons that we choose to live here. As weird as it is, I am not an outdoors person in any way. What I enjoy is that our community hosts lots of events and functions. I love organizing fundraisers, charity events, and helping others build our area one event at a time. This last summer my little group IFalls Nice started a drive-in movie in the High School parking lot. That was so much fun watching the happiness that it brought people in the area.
What do you think makes International Falls special?
Opportunity. There are very few places in this world that you can start a business or grow professionally like International Falls. I grew up in a low- income family on 9th street and despite my meager upbringing this community has allowed me to manage some great businesses. I have been able to purchase and sell the bowling alley, my wife has just purchased a flower shop on main street, and I have been able to become the Mayor. International Falls is a great place to start and grow a professional career and make a good life.
How has Covid affected you? How have you seen it affect our community?
COVID is such a crazy thing. I have always tried to be a compromiser. Give and take is truly how we make progress in most things. Covid is a different animal. With a world of information at your fingertips people can get information to back any crazy theory they want. Masks are good, masks are bad, this is a flu, this is a global pandemic. There is no compromise, every decision that is made in compromise makes both sides dangerously angry. So Covid has affected me that same as what I see in the community as a whole…Mental health. Stress, fear and concern for others is eating me up. I believe that we are so focused on the virus that we have neglected our mental health. Social distancing from friends and family in a time that we need others more than ever.
What is your plan for Covid-19 response?
We have been taking our response from Minnesota Department of Health. This is outside normal protocol for most municipalities. We feel it is best to listen to guidance from others and plan accordingly.
What is your relationship with the school? Did you go to Falls High?
I attended Falls Elementary, Backus Middle School and Falls High School, graduating in 1996. I was active in Knowledge Bowl, Theater, Student Council, Prom/Post Prom Committee member and being myself. I was… let’s just say different. I had a goldfish in my locker all four years of High School. I was co-emcee of my senior Homecoming pep fest, and voted “Teachers Pain”, “Most Talkative”, “Most Outgoing”, and “Most School Spirit”. To top off my FHS career I had my senior picture taken in a toga.
What changes do you plan to make in our area that would positively affect the
youth in International Falls?
I have been an advocate to reimagine Kerry Park. Our community needs a community center that offers programing, recreational activities, and new updated facilities. This is a major undertaking, but our youth need another safe place with activities outside of the school system. I would also see a program like Big Brothers/Big Sisters in our community. We must encourage our youth that this community is a place to start a business, create opportunities and make a home.
What role do you think the Mayor should play in our town?
The Mayor is the figure head of our community and I take that very seriously. The position of Mayor is 50% Student Council, 25% Speech Team, 25% Cheerleader. I believe that it is important to showcase our successes and strive for more. I want to encourage everyone to do better.
How do students get involved with local government?
Keep up on local issues. Read the Journal online or in print and listen to KGHS/KSDM & B93. Watch what we are doing on KCC-TV on YouTube or channel 7 on TV. Let us hear your thoughts. Tell us what you want. I am so concerned about your generation and the unfilled needs of our community to keep you here.