Bonnie Besse Rietz

Bonnie Rietz became active in the community the moment she moved to Austin, Minnesota in 1979. She taught French at the Austin Community College and she continues to be active with the Riverland Foundation today. In 2015, the college honored her with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Bonnie was a member of the Austin City Council from 1989-1997 and later served as the first female Mayor of Austin for an additional 10 years. During her tenure as Mayor, she began airing City Council meetings on live TV and held bi-monthly radio shows. She also instituted monthly meeting between the City Council and the Mower County Board of Commissioners.

Major Accomplishments while serving at Mayor include:

  • Started the flower basket project and continues to serve on the committee today.
  • The expansion of airport runways and other major improvements at the Austin airport.
  • Worked to complete the $11.2M de-nitrification project at the Austin Wastewater Treatment Plant.
  • Helped to develop the Cook Farm Industrial Park.
  • Her leadership saw to the construction of the Packer Arena.
  • Worked with the HRA to build the Courtyard Apartments, Whittier Town Homes, Chauncey Apartments, and Murphy Creek Housing.
  • Worked to ensure passage of a local option sales tax for flood mitigation at the State Legislature after severe weather events in 1989, 2000 and 2004 causes major flooding in the area.

Bonnie helped to establish many groups in the community including – the Welcome Center, Austin Area Drug Task Force, Page Turners, Amis Austin, Apex Austin, and Access Austin.  In 2012, she co-founded the Austin Artworks Festival and she continues to serve as the co-chair of the event. She is also a member of Rotary (former president), American Association of University Women, YMCA (former board member) Friends of the Nature Center, Friends of the Library, St. Olaf Church (former president), Global Health Ministries (former board member), and is an instructor for Healthy Relationships for Aging Mastery Program. Bonnie has also been instrumental in bringing the Blandin Leadership Program to Austin ten times over the past twenty-five years, which has helped to train and build up a wealth of emerging community leaders.

Bonnie currently serves as the vice-chair of The Hormel Foundation and is the first woman to serve in that role. As Vice Chair of the Hormel Foundation and a board member of the Riverland Foundation, she worked on developing the Assurance Scholarship Program for all local High School graduates to attend Riverland Community College tuition free for 2 years.

Bonnie Rietz truly is a leader who is positive and always looking for ways to help Austin, especially our immigrant families in the community. She has a constant smile and thrives on making a difference that will benefit everyone.

Do you know someone that has made an impact on the City of Austin? Submit a Pillars of the City nomination for next year!