Crosslake's Swenson looks forward to leaving stresses of city government | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Crosslake's Swenson looks forward to leaving stresses of city government

Swenson is retiring after 15.5 years

Posted: December 28, 2012 - 10:22pm

Tom Swenson is looking forward to the day when watching a relentless snowstorm out his window will just be a time to put on another pot of coffee and enjoy the view.

After 33 years working in government and 15.5 years in Crosslake as city administrator, he’s leaving the city post he enjoyed. While he may have wondered if it was the right time before, now the decision has been made Swenson said he’s enjoyed something he hasn’t felt for decades — stress reduction.

“I just feel so relaxed,” Swenson said Friday. “There is just a constant stress that goes with this job. I just feel a great weight lifted off my shoulder. I’m not planning on leaving town or going anywhere. I’m just trying to retire and enjoy life right now.”

It will be a change. Just days ago Swenson was on the phone late into the night as the decisions were being made to pull snowplows off for the night as the snow was falling fast and furiously. They decided it would be safer for crews to tackle the thick slush in the morning light.

It’s just one part to an administrator’s job. Swenson earned a business degree from Mankato State University. Out of school, he applied for city clerk jobs in Ely and Grand Marais. He landed the one in Grand Marais and was there 14 years before moving to Hawley near Moorhead. He left the trees and North Shore area for flat land and sugar beets in the Red River Valley. He had never been in Crosslake before his job interview.

But he remembers his first impression on seeing the trees and the lakes on both sides of the road.

He was taken in by the setting and hoped he would get the job.

He did.

“Crosslake got me back into the lakes and trees and a little closer to family in the Twin Cites. This was a good move to come here.”

Now looking back, Swenson said he was most proud of the accomplishments he was involved in along with the team of workers within the city and others.

Those accomplishments include paving 30 miles of city roads, the construction of the wastewater treatment plant and collection system, the joint city and Crow Wing County maintenance facility, construction of the library and expansion of the community center and current work to expand the city hall building to accommodate not one but two ambulances. He spoke of numerous upgrades of fire and rescue equipment, adding a hovercraft and rescue vehicle and two pumper trucks along with adding eight civil defense sirens.

He was also pleased to be part of acquiring 80 acres next to the community center for hiking and cross country ski trails.

The city has been working with Crow Wing County to extend the trails into the adjacent 600 acres of county managed public land.

“This could be an excellent cross country ski destination in the future,” Swenson said. “They just finished the first loop of the trail into the county land.”

During his tenure, five miles of paved bike and walking trails were added between Manhattan Point and West Shore Drive.

“Crosslake is probably the most unique city I’ve ever been involved with,” Swenson said of the city, which covers 37 square miles. The city combines lakeshore and off-lake residents, those who have spent their entire lives in the city and more recent transplants looking for all the amenities of the metro area. It’s a city of the young and the elderly. “There is such a diverse group here it’s a challenge to try to keep everyone happy, but there are a lot of good people in this town.”

As times changed the mom and pop resorts disappeared and were replace by big lakeshore properties.

Swenson said the lake associations are working diligently to make sure the city retains its character and isn’t ruined through the process of development.

Swenson said he is leaving a city that is in excellent financial shape with a solid infrastructure and quality staff members.

“The biggest challenge is going to be continued diligence with planning and zoning issues and protection of the lakes and water quality — and those are difficult issues when you get into planning and zoning and the property rights argument that will always probably be a challenge up here.

“Crosslake is really fortunate to have a dedicated and competent group of employees.”

At 58, Swenson wasn’t originally thinking of retiring but now, looking forward, he said he isn’t going to mind leaving the day-to-day pressures of city management and changing councils behind in order to retire while he’s still young enough to enjoy it.

“Right now I’m just ready to relax for awhile,” he said. “I just feel I’m leaving the city in good hands personnel wise.”

Jennifer Max, clerk-treasurer, is expected to act as interim city administrator until the new council makes a decision on future plans.

Swenson said he knows there will be plenty of volunteer opportunities going forward.

“I have all kinds of options, but probably for the first month I’ll take it easy and go ice fishing.”

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz.