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Population Doubles In North Dakota's Smallest Incorporated City


All right. There is some good news for a Midwestern city that nearly fell off the map this summer. I'm just going to say it, Rachel. Ruso, N.D., is about to see a population boom.


Right. So the population had been three, as in only three people lived there. But then the mayor died in July, reducing the population to two. Who knew, but North Dakota law says you need three people to be an official incorporated city. So enter the hero of the story, Greg Schmaltz.

GREG SCHMALTZ: I'm a farm boy. I'm a country boy. And we just want to be out in the country. It's quiet. At my place right now, we have no yard lights. So when stars are out here in northern North Dakota and there's no clouds, it's pretty bright.

GREENE: All right. So Schmaltz has been living nearby, but he's actually been building a place in Ruso and now he's going to move there with his wife, Michelle, keeping Ruso a city. Now, a city, of course, needs a mayor. And Ruso's three city council members - yes, the entire rest of the population, including Michelle - decided to make Greg Schmaltz the mayor.

MARTIN: So what's it like being the mayor of a city of four?

SCHMALTZ: (Laughter) I just kind of smile. It's not a big deal. It's just another day. I'm proud to help be a part of the town and welcome people to come visit us.

GREENE: All right. The soon-to-be mayor explained that remaining a city officially was really important to keep certain funding coming in.

SCHMALTZ: There is a certain amount of tax dollars that we get to pay for the street lights, the electricity portion of it, and pay for our local garbage pickup.

MARTIN: Mayor Schmaltz also predicted that Ruso will keep growing.

SCHMALTZ: We actually just had another individual. He moved in a little tiny cabin this last summer. We've got another couple that's probably going to be moving out there. So yeah. You know, little by little.

GREENE: Little by little, Ruso is growing. That's Greg Schmaltz, who tomorrow will officially become the mayor of the smallest city in the state of North Dakota. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.