The area developed as a stagecoach stop between Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Dubuque, Iowa near the Zumbro River. The community was founded by George Head and his wife Henrietta who built a log cabin named Head’s Tavern in 1854 and named the city after his hometown of Rochester, New York. When the Winona and St Peter Railroad initiated service in October 1864, it brought new residents and business opportunities and spurred growth. In 1863, Dr. William W. Mayo arrived as the examining surgeon for Union draftees in the Civil War. Rochester celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2004.


Mayo Clinic forms the core of Rochester’s economy. As of 2016, it employs 34,180 people and draws more than 2 million visitors annually. The clinic’s many facilities, along with hotels, restaurants and retail stores, comprise nearly all of the city’s downtown. Excluding the state government, Mayo Clinic is the largest employer in Minnesota. Other care providers, including the Rochester Federal Medical Center, are significant employers.

IBM’s Rochester campus is an R&D and manufacturing center. It has produced the System i series, has been home to the first Blue Gene prototype, and contributed the servers for Roadrunner. Seven employees at the Rochester IBM campus created IBM Employees Credit Union, which is now Think Mutual Bank, a chain of banks in the Rochester and Twin Cities metropolitan areas.

The economy of Rochester is also influenced by the agricultural nature of the region. There are multiple dairy producers that are active in the area. In addition, Kerry Flavours and Ingredients, a subsidiary of the global Irish company called Kerry Group, maintains a production plant in Rochester that specializes in fermented ingredients, found in breads, meats and other processed foods.

Parks and recreation

Rochester has an extensive network of bike and pedestrian paths

Rochester’s city park system has more than 100 sites covering 5 square miles (13 km2), including parks located along Bear Creek and South Fork Zumbro rivers. The city also maintains 85 miles (137 km) of paved trails.

The city also maintains four public golf courses: Northern Hills, Eastwood Golf Club, Hadley Creek, and Soldiers Field Golf Course located downtown. In addition, a number of private courses are located in the Rochester area, including Willow Creek Golf Club, Oak Summit Golf Club, and the Rochester Golf and Country Club along with a number of courses in smaller surrounding communities. The city of Rochester has also started the bike share program for its community members where the registered members and visitors can rent a bike for free through one of its bike share locations at Rochester Public Library (Minnesota), Peace Plaza or Rochester City Hall.


Rochester is governed by a mayor-council government with a seven-member city council. The current mayor is Kim Norton. As of January 2021, the city council comprises: Brooke Carlson, City Council President; Patrick Keane, 1st Ward; Mark Bransford, 2nd Ward; Nick Campion, 3rd Ward; Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, 4th Ward; Shaun Palmer, 5th Ward; and Molly Dennis, 6th Ward.

All municipal elected offices in Rochester are non-partisan, as stated in the city’s charter. 

Rochester is the seat of Olmsted County, run by a seven-member elected county board, each representing district residents. The County Board of Commissioners oversee county operations and address citizen concerns. When a commissioner is elected, they are elected to serve a 4-year term. When that term ends, the commissioner can run for re-election if they so desire. The County Attorney and the County Sheriff are also elected to 4-year terms and can run for re-election when the term expires if they choose. Each of these elected officials acts as the director for his/her office, and are accountable to the residents of Olmsted County.

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