Winona’s location on the Mississippi River spurred the community’s growth in 1856, leading to the incorporation of the City of Winona in 1857. According to the Winona Argus, September 3, 1857, Winona was the second largest city in Minnesota. In June 1856, the population was 2,000 and by the fall of 1856, it was 3,000. Part of the surge in population in 1856 was the fact that land claims became legal in 1855 with the completion of land surveys and the opening of a local federal land office.
The City now operates under a Home Rule Charter, which was adopted in 1968. The charter set up a council-manager form of governance in which the city council has policy-making and legislative authority, but administration of the government is the city manager’s responsibility. The city council consists of the mayor, who is a voting member of the council, and six city council members.
The current City Hall building was constructed in 1938 as a WPA project. The building across the street, which currently houses Beno’s Deli, served as the former City Hall.
The City of Winona provides a wide range of services to its residents, including police, fire, water and sewer utilities, street maintenance, parks and recreation, the public library, community and economic development, building inspections and planning and zoning.
The Port Authority was established by the City in 1968 with approval of the State Legislature. The Port Authority serves as the economic development arm of the City of Winona and, in addition, fosters waterborne transportation by operating a dock and fleeting area in the commercial harbor.
Since its creation, the Port Authority has acquired and improved land for industrial and economic development purposes. The Port Authority is governed by seven commissioners, two of whom are city council members. All commissioners are appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council.
Winona County was established in 1854 when Fillmore County was divided. From 1853 to 1859, officers of the County kept records in their own office or home. In 1859, the officers were located in a building known as the Smith & Bennet Building, a three-story building facing the levee near Lafayette Street. The Winona County Courthouse was built in 1887 at a cost of $125,000. It was dedicated in 1889.
Winona County was established with the traditional functions of law enforcement, property taxes, elections, highway maintenance and construction, recording of legal documents, social services and judicial administration.
Winona County commissioners are elected officials who oversee County activities. There are five commissioners elected to four-year terms. The county administrator is responsible for the supervision of day-to-day operations and County institutions and agencies.