For 34 years, Brainerd City Administrator Dan Vogt managed the day-to-day tasks of cities around Minnesota under the direction of a city council. He attended 1,100 nightly meetings in 23 years in Brainerd and was awarded the Dr. Robert A. Barrett Award for Management Excellence for outstanding service to local government from the Minnesota City/County Management Association in 2009. And come Friday, Vogt closes the chapter of a career he actually hadn’t imagined for himself until college forced the choice.
“Did I ever think I was going to be a city administrator? Not at all,” Vogt said in the office he will call home for the next three days before enjoying the lake and everywhere outside of the city hall walls following his retirement June 30. “It was one of those things where I was a junior in college (at St. Cloud State University) and I had to figure out what I was going to do.
“As I started to look through the (college course) book and saw urban and local affairs, there was some interest there so I got into the program, not knowing that city administrator was where I would end up until I did an internship in Little Falls (as assistant city administrator) in 1977 (through 1978) and now here I am.”
Vogt made some stops along the way, landing his first city administrator gig right out of college with the city of Rogers where he stayed between 1978-84 before moving to Shorewood. With promotions for a city administrator only coming along by moving to a bigger city, Vogt said while in Shorewood, he and his wife, Carol, discussed their next step and took a leap for Brainerd.
“My wife was working at General Mills and we had two young kids — Justin was probably about a 1 year 1/2 and Lauren was about four or five — and this job (in Brainerd) would have given her time to stay at home and take care of the kids for awhile,” said the 56-year-old, who added the plan was only meant to be for half the time he actually spent here as Brainerd’s city administrator, “which she did for about five years. Carol’s brother lives up here, so that was a little bit of a draw, too.”
In his tenure, Vogt said there were plenty of things he did that he proudly looks back on, with the simple things counting the most.
“I look back, I think this building, remodeling city hall 20 years ago was pretty great,” he said. “Then there was the local option sales tax more recently...but really the things that give me a lot of satisfaction is when you help a business out by helping it come to town or getting a call from somebody and fixing a pothole for someone that’s been bothering them for awhile or a dog complaint to take care of, it’s the little things that give me a lot of satisfaction as well.”
But Vogt said despite all the satisfaction, he is ready to enjoy the little things in life with his family and friends.
“It’s going to definitely be different and a little bittersweet,” Vogt said. “I was asked at the last (Brainerd City Council) meeting ‘Aren’t you going to be a little sad?’ and no, I’m really not.
“I won’t miss the late night meetings. I have been to 1,100 night meetings in this town; that’s a lot of time away and a lot of time being gone, so that, I am not going to miss that one bit.
“And I am very much looking forward to stepping away and spending time with family. The whole month of July I have a fishing trip planned and some family and I am sure come August or September I will start thinking, ‘OK, I need to get something else going to keep me busy,’ but for now I am going to enjoy the nothing.”