Crow Wing County Auditor Roy Luukkonen recently attended the annual Minnesota Association of County Officers recognition banquet as he has done for several years.
This year was different. Luukkonen was astonished when he was named outstanding member of the year in recognition of distinguished service to community, county and the association.
"There was a number of staff, including my wife, who was able to keep a secret," he said. "It's a humbling experience. There are other auditors more deserving.
"This is a once in a lifetime award."
Luukkonen, 58, has served on the Minnesota Association of County Auditors since 1999 and has served as its president.
Closer to home, Luukkonen was president of the Brainerd Lakes Rotary Club in 1998-99 and he is president of Friends of Old Crow Wing. He also is a long-time member of the Brainerd Legion Club, Brainerd Elks Club and Trinity Lutheran Church.
As auditor, Luukkonen's county resposibilities are defined by state statute. His primary roles are serving as the chief county election administration official and financial officer. Working on property tax administration is also a major function in the auditor's office. Luukkonen also oversees the financial and accounting departments and is the clerk for the Crow Wing County Board, where he implements actions and resolutions taken by the board, such as awarding bids.
Luukkonen also is responsible for a variety of activities, such as liquor and tobacco and game and fish permits. He oversees a staff of 20 in the auditor's office.
Luukkonen has enjoyed his years serving Crow Wing County. He began with the county in 1968 and was appointed county auditor in 1988, when former county auditor Conrad Bye retired.
In 1990, Luukkonen filed for office for the first time. He said it was an exciting time. He has run for the four-year auditor seat four times. In those four elections, Luukkonen had opposition only the first time.
"Being the auditor is a very satisfying position," said Luukkonen. "I enjoy the challenges and responsibilities. I have always enjoyed public service as an employee or an elected official. The people we serve are appreciative of the services they receive."
Luukkonen is starting his second year of his four-year term and he said he has not seriously thought about retiring. He met the public employee's retirement requirements in 2001.
Luukkonen is a 1963 Sebeka High School graduate. He earned a certificate to be a forestry technician in 1964 at the University of Minnesota in Grand Rapids.
Upon receiving his certificate, he had a contract with Cass County to do land appraisals for tax purposes. Luukkonen then served in the Army from 1965 to 1967.
After serving in the Army he entered into a contract with Itasca County to conduct appraisals. He was there until June of 1968 when he took a position with Crow Wing County. Luukkonen said the then county auditor, Einer Anderson, hired him as a real estate technician for doing land classifications and mapping. He was in this position for 10 years.
Looking to the future, Luukkonen said it will be a challenging year. He said with the presidential election this year there will be a lot of work. The election will also include two county commissioner seats, judicial offices, city offices and likely one or more constitutional amendments.
Other challenges Luukkonen said in the county will be the building project. He said a lot of time and work will go into the 20-year project in 2004.
The budget will be a challenge in 2005. The county board has already begun discussions on the budget.
"These are challenging times with the budget reflecting less money than prior years," said Luukkonen. "Until the economy recovers and the Legislature acts we'll have some additional years to look at budget concerns."
Luukkonen and his wife, Joanne, live south of Brainerd. They have three adult children and are expecting to be grandparents for the first time in April.
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