Michael Polovitz was born in Wakefield, Michigan, in 1926. He married his wife Barb while attending the University of Michigan. He graduated with a B.A. in music in 1950 and a Masters in music in 1951. He became the band director at the College of Emporia in Kansas before moving to Grand Forks in 1954 to be band director and assistant professor at the University of North Dakota (UND). Polovitz was promoted to associate professor in 1961 and full professor in 1976. He retired from UND in 1986.
While teaching at UND, he was elected to the school board in 1970 and a year later to the city council. In 1988, Polovitz was elected mayor of Grand Forks, due largely to his promise to be a full time mayor for a part time salary. He was re-elected in 1992 when he ran unopposed. Polovitz chose not to run for a third term in 1996.
His accomplishments included a proposal to build an Events Center, which Polovitz believed was desperately needed for Grand Forks to compete with other cities. He also passed a proposal that allowed for a new city council building, replacing the one built in 1911. Polovitz also managed to keep taxes and unemployment low, while growing the economy during his two terms. There were several hardships during his tenure, including floods in 1989 and 1996, the threat of closing the Grand Forks Air Force Base on two separate occasions, and the firing of the City Assessor.
In 2000, Polovitz was elected to the North Dakota State Senate as a member of the Democratic Nonpartisan League. He served two terms, but was not re-elected in 2004. Polovitz died December 14, 2013, in Grand Forks.
Donation; 2004- 2721
The Michael Polovitz Papers, 1988-2003, consist of four scrapbooks prepared by his wife Barb. Contents are mostly articles from the Grand Forks Herald, as well as some from the North Dakota League of Cities Bulletin, The Washington Post, Business America, The New York Times, and Money. These scrapbooks also include programs from events he attended as mayor, thank you notes, pictures, correspondence, and documents pertaining to city projects. Also included is Polovitz’s book, The Mayor’s Alley. This book was written in 1997 and chronicles his accomplishments and setbacks while in office.
A fifth scrapbook pertains to his tenure as a State Senator. It contains articles from the Grand Forks Herald and the Bismarck Tribune regarding Polovitz’s proposed tax break for citizens under thirty years of age. It also has many images of Polovitz and assorted thank you notes.