For Mark Ostgarden, the city of Brainerd is lacking in only one aspect -- a curling club.
Ostgarden, who on Jan. 10 started work as Brainerd's new city planner, is an avid curling enthusiast. He has participated in three men's curling national championships and two Olympic trials.
The native Minnesotan had spent the previous 18 years as a city planner in Midland, Mich. Curling aside, he sees Brainerd as a perfect fit for himself and his wife.
"What appeals to me is it's a self-contained community with potential," Ostgarden said. "It's a beautiful area. How could someone resist that?"
Ostgarden, 48, took over the position vacated by Mike Brethorst, who resigned Sept. 2 to take a position as Barnesville's chief operating officer.
He and his wife had been contemplating a move for some time, Ostgarden said, and they wanted to go back to Minnesota. Originally from Thief River Falls, Ostgarden said he got into city planning after visiting his older brother in Minneapolis when he was younger. He said the way city's are laid out has always appealed to him.
When he arrived in Brainerd, Ostgarden said he had to adjust to being the new person on the job for the first time in 18 years. He credits city staffers with helping him make the transition.
One area that he would like to address is updating the city's zoning and subdivision ordinances to complement the recently completed comprehensive plan. He said Brainerd is growing and the city needs to be ready for it.
"For decades Brainerd has been a nice resort community in the north woods that was seasonal," Ostgarden said. "That's changing. It's no longer remote in any regard."
For now, Ostgarden is busying himself learning the city's layout, its ordinances and meeting fellow city employees and local developers. He admits it's going to take some time to take everything in.
He also is learning a new form of city government. He said in Midland, Mich., the city council wasn't as hands-on as it is in Brainerd, but acted as more of a policy-oriented group with a city manager that worked between staffers and council members.
Getting to work directly with council members is appealing, Ostgarden said, and he hopes it's a working relationship that will last.
"The possibility to be involved in many issues, to get my hands in many pots, is appealing," Ostgarden said. "I can see being in Brainerd for quite some time. Especially if we get a curling club.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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