Brad Aho moved to Eden Prairie in 1991. But, it took 14 years before he discovered — as a new City Council member — the breadth of his fellow residents’ generosity.
“I didn’t know how committed the people of Eden Prairie were to the community in donating their time, talent and money to doing all these wonderful things,” Aho said. “There’s hardly a council meeting that goes by without the city accepting some donation.”
After 16 years on the council, Aho, 61, officially finishes his fourth term at the end of December. The electrical engineer/small business owner recently reflected on his service to Eden Prairie that he says maintains a “community feel” despite nearing 65,000 residents. It’s all about the people, he says.
“We feel more like a smaller town by how committed we are to the community,” Aho said. “That’s one of the things that makes Eden Prairie a pretty great place. I’m happy to have done my part.”
Instead of vying for another term on the council, Aho ran for Hennepin County Board commissioner after Jan Callison opted not to seek re-election to her District 6 seat. He finished third in the August primary. The two top vote-getters—Chris LaTondresse and Dario Anselmo—advanced to the November election, with LaTondresse winning.
“You have to commit to one or the other,” said Aho, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 2018. “I committed to running for county commissioner. Unfortunately, I did not make it. But, my term ends on the council, and it’s been a great experience, and I’ve enjoyed it greatly.”
Stepping aside, Aho said, gives other people with different perspectives a chance to offer their talents and opinions.
His seat will be filled by Lisa Toomey, who garnered the most votes in the November council election. PG Narayanan, appointed to fill a vacancy in 2018, won the other seat.
During Aho’s time on the council, Eden Prairie has grown on many fronts. New businesses and buildings dot the landscape. Work on the long-planned Southwest Light Rail Transit/Green Line Extension is rising along Prairie Center Drive.
“We had a good foundation to build upon from past leadership,” he said. “They did an excellent job in planning and putting the city on the right track. I feel good about my contributions to our city in a lot of different areas.”
He points to a slew of park improvements completed during his time on the council. That includes the aquatic center and third sheet of ice at the Community Center. “It also was huge to add splash pads and adaptable fields for access for everyone,” he said.
Aho pushed to have the city staff do budgeting and tracking through a database in order to maintain necessary repairs and upkeep from roofs to furniture in its buildings. He said the city does the same to keep on top of street repairs.
“The city is in good shape,” said Aho, noting its AAA bond rating. “I feel like I’ve had a hand in that.”
Aho also cited his efforts to improve the way motorists travel in Eden Prairie and beyond its borders. He served on the Interstate Hwy. 494 Corridor Commission and the Southwest Transit Commission, ending up the chair of both.
He is proud to have helped play a part in adding some innovative services for SouthWest Transit riders. That includes SW Prime, where people request a ride through an app or phone.
During his time on the I-494 Corridor Commission, the I-494/Hwy. 169 interchange project was finished, easing traffic congestion there. “That was a big goal that I wanted to happen,” he says.
Aho is pleased that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) plans improvements on I-494 from Hwy. 169 to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, including the interchange at Interstate Hwy. 35. “That wasn’t even on the 25-year plan for MnDOT, and we’re now going to see that happen in the next couple of years,” he says.
Stepping away from politics will allow him to spend more time traveling with his wife, Bev, to visit their three grown children and their families scattered around the country.
Their oldest daughter, Amber, lives in Georgia with her husband, Will, and daughter, Eleanor, 2 and 1/2. Son Austin lives in Salt Lake City. Annie, their youngest daughter, lives in Seattle with her husband, Joshua, two children, Afton, 3, and Mackinac, born Oct. 5.
Aho is also busy with work. Besides being the chief technology officer at Erickson Technologies in Eagan, he runs 13 small businesses.
“This will give us more freedom for scheduling without having to be tied down to the meetings,” he said.
During his time on the council, Aho missed just two meetings—one while being treated for cancer, the second when Afton was born.
“We always made it a priority in our lives to work around my council duties,” he said. “If you’re elected to represent the people, you have to be there, and you have to know what’s going on.”
The “we” Aho refers to is both him and Bev. Both have been active in the community. Bev served as chair of the Eden Prairie Community Foundation.
Aho is doing well health-wise. He’s been in remission since finishing his treatment for multiple myeloma.
He recalls the first day he went to Mayo Clinic in August 2014, looking for answers. “I was meeting with the head of oncology at Mayo, and he said, ‘I think you got two to three weeks.’ I said, ‘For what?’ And he said, ‘To live.’”
At first, doctors didn’t know what kind of cancer he had. All they knew at that point was how extensive it was in his body.
“We drove home that afternoon from Rochester and planned my funeral,” he remembered.
The next day doctors offered more hope. Earlier biopsy results narrowed in on multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood. He underwent radiation, 12 weeks of chemotherapy, and a stem cell transplant.
“Every day is a gift, that’s for sure,” he said. “A lot of miracles took place. I think God worked through the team at Mayo and healed me up. I’m very fortunate.”
Aho is unsure if he will run for public office again.
“We both feel strongly about giving back to the community, and we still will in some ways, but 16 years is a good amount of time,” he said.