BAXTER -- After four years, Greg Wagner, Baxter's new city planner, has finally found the career he has wanted.
Wagner, 27, spent his post-college years working in the Twin Cities for General Electric. After serving in Bosnia with the Minnesota Army National Guard in 2003 and early 2004, the Fergus Falls native began searching for a career in his chosen collegiate field -- city planning.
He'd been watching city Web sites for job openings when he received a call from Mike Brethorst, former Brainerd city planner/community development coordinator, with whom he served in Bosnia. Brethorst told him about the job in Baxter.
"It sounded appealing. It's a great community to be in," Wagner said. "I like the north woods. I'm very outdoor-minded."
He started work with the city of Baxter on Aug. 5, and he said things went smooth working under Community Development Director Todd Holman. But in less than a month, Holman announced he was leaving the city of Baxter for a position with the Nature Conservancy.
"That's when things got a little more stressful," Wagner said. Instead of handling what he called "basic planning" issues, such as code enforcement, he was thrown into a position of handling planning issues for the entire city. He said it was difficult to work on projects that were started before he was hired by the city and he credited current city staffers for their help and Holman for his guidance after he left the city.
"Everyone was helpful showing me the ropes and guiding me along," he said.
"Every day I'm here I learn something new. I learn from my mistakes," Wagner said with a laugh. "I did a lot of research before I came here, but I'm still surprised by the amount of growth in the city."
While he has busied himself with learning Baxter's ordinances and codes and keeping sure he maintains consistency in his interpretation of them, Wagner said a long-term project he would like to tackle would be a park near the Mississippi River.
Though it was stressful, Wagner is now appreciative of his trial by fire as Baxter' city planner. He said he's been told that when a new community development director is hired, his job won't be changing too much.
"If I stay here, which I plan to do for a while, the experience gained here puts me well into the know," he said.
Wagner is engaged to be married in August. He said one of the draws of moving to Baxter was the city and the area catered to many of his hobbies, including biking, walking and hunting. The only hobby he can't partake of in the area is rock climbing, he said. MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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