Michael Polovitz was born in Wakefield, Michigan, in 1926. He married his wife Barb while attending at the University of Michigan. He graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1950 and a Masters of Music degree in 1951. He then went on to become the band director at the College of Emporia in Kansas before moving to Grand Forks to be the band director and assistant professor at the University of North Dakota in 1954. Polovitz was promoted to associate professor in 1961 and full professor in 1976 by a unanimous vote. He retired from the university in 1986.
While teaching at UND he was elected to the school board in 1970 and a year later the city council. In 1988, Polovitz was elected Mayor of Grand Forks, thanks in large part 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.
During his time in office, Polovitz accomplished many things. At the top of the list is the getting the proposal passed to allow the city to build an Events Center, which he believed was something Grand Forks desperately needed 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 constantly keeping the economy growing during his two terms. There were several hardships that Polovitz had to deal with as well. These include floods in 1989 and 1996, the threat of having the Grand Forks Air Force Base being closed on two 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 the 2004 election. Polovitz died on December 14, 2013, in Grand Forks.
Donation; Acc.#2004- 2721
The Michael Polovitz Papers date from 1988-2003. It consists of four scrapbooks kept by his wife Barb which contain many articles from the Grand Forks Herald, as well as some articles 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 the many events he attended while as mayor, thank you notes from the countless people that he helped, pictures from the places he visited, correspondence, and documents pertaining to city projects that he worked on.
Also included is Polovitz’s book, The Mayor’s Alley. This book was written in 1997 using the scrapbooks mentioned above and details the many things that Polovitz accomplished while in office, along with the hardships that came with the position.
A fifth scrapbook documents Polovitz’s time serving as a State Senator. Much of what is contained in this scrapbook is articles from the Grand Forks Herald and the Bismarck Tribune. These articles cover Polovitz’s proposed tax break for all North Dakota citizens under thirty years of age which was not passed. This scrapbook also contains many pictures of Polovitz as well as thank you notes.