When Ramsey Mayor Bob Ramsey recently missed only his second council meeting in three years, he vowed not to miss another, if possible. But Ramsey works 500 miles from home.

Forced by economic hardship to take a job in Minot, N.D., as a mechanic with an oil company, Ramsey still plans to preside over Tuesday's council meeting and then take a 12:40 a.m. train from St. Cloud back to North Dakota. If Amtrak's Empire Builder is on schedule, Ramsey will arrive in Minot at 8:34 a.m. Wednesday -- in time for work.

"Everyone's got to make money," Ramsey said. "If there's not opportunity in Minnesota -- and there's not opportunity in Minnesota, in my opinion -- then you go where you can to feed your family. The stats say there are 11,000 jobs in North Dakota."

Ramsey, who missed the last council meeting, can't vote on city proposals unless he attends meetings in person, according to state law, said Heidi Nelson, deputy city administrator. Ramsey, who says he will likely miss council "work sessions," plans to keep abreast of issues through phone conversations, reading minutes of meetings and via the Internet.

Ramsey is up for re-election in 2012 and wants to continue as mayor, for which he earns $8,000 a year. After years of economic turmoil and lawsuits surrounding the city's Town Center project, now rebranded as the COR, the city has seen recent development, including a new VA clinic that is expected to attract veterans from throughout the region to the northwestern suburb.

Last month, final funding was approved for a new $13.2 million Northstar commuter rail station in Ramsey for which the mayor and other civic leaders tirelessly campaigned. When a news conference was held to announce plans for the station, expected to open in about a year, the mayor was there. He said the drive from Minot took 8 1/2 hours.

"We'll see how this works," said Council Member Randy Backous, who has had political differences with Ramsey. "I don't begrudge anyone who's trying to take care of his family. But this is unusual."

The League of Minnesota Cities is not aware of another mayor making such an extreme commute, said spokesman Don Reeder.

Ramsey said he is renting a home owned by relatives in the Minot area. He plans to return to Anoka County as often as possible. A round-trip Amtrak ticket from Minot to St. Cloud is $118.

Ramsey said he plans to discuss his work status at Tuesday's council meeting.

It already has been a tumultuous year for the seven-member council. One member resigned because of illness and has been replaced in a special election; another was charged with embezzlement (in connection with a matter not related to city business), and a third was convicted of misdemeanor assault from an incident last year.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419