BAXTER - They are the faces who greet those who have business with the city of Baxter.
Angela Hart greets them as they come through the doors of city hall and Shanna Newman and Mary Haugen take care of all customers with the Community Development department and Public Works department, respectively.
Angela Hart, Shanna Newman and Mary Haugen
The ideal job: Haugen thought about it, but said she couldn't come up with anything other than the job she does now as the administrative assistant for the Public Works Department. "It really is, in all honesty, what I truly enjoy doing," she said. "I'll probably be old and wrinkled and die here." Hart said she'd like to work as an assistant with a school district, working with younger kids. Or be a cabana girl. Newman has always wanted to be a caterer/party planner. "If I lost my job tomorrow and had million dollars, that's what I'd do. I love it."
First thing you buy if you had $1 million: Hart would buy a home on the lake. Haugen, who is helping her husband restore a 1964 Ford Mustang, would buy her husband a Ford Mustang Fastback. Newman would buy the lot next door so her husband could build a big pole barn. That way she'd finally get to park her car in the garage. "All I know is I want my car in the garage," she joked.
The one thing you'd like to get your boss to do: Newman would like to see Community Development Director Bill Deblon stop wearing a tie with his jeans for Fun Friday. Hart would like to see Finance Director Jeremy Vacinek play guitar on Rock Band at the staff Christmas party. Though offered numerous suggestions by Hart and Newman, Haugen couldn't, or wouldn't, come up with an answer for her boss, Trevor Walter. "Discretion is the better part of valor," she said.
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But it's more than just work that these three have in common. They all have a great sense of humor, enjoy sharing a laugh about their lives and their work and count themselves as friends.
Hart has been employed by Baxter for two years and previously worked for the Dispatch for 10 years. Her job entails knowing a little bit about every department in the city. She handles utility billing and payments, contractor registration and permitting, all cash receipts as well as answers phones and processes invoices.
Though her job can be stressful, Hart enjoys her work because of the people she works with and the nature of the job, which she said is rarely repetitive.
Mary Haugen (left), Angela Hart and Shanna Newman on Thursday shared a laugh at Hart's desk at Baxter City Hall. The three are the first people customers work with at city hall for public works, finance and community development and count themselves as friends outside work. Brainerd Dispatch/Matt Erickson » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"It's always something new and different every day," she said.
At home, it's her family, husband Ryan and two children, Kaytlin, 10, and Kailey, 2, who keep her busy. She said her free time is spent camping, shopping or taking walks with her husband and kids.
Newman has worked at Baxter for the past four years, first in the building department and in the past year moving to the technical clerk for the Community Development department.
Before working for Baxter, Newman lived in Duluth and worked for a fire protection company.
"I never would have thought of working for a city," Newman said. Now she handles the agendas, phone calls and questions for five city commissions as well as the zoning permits and fields questions from real estate agents.
"It's a position you learn something new in every day," Newman said. "It doesn't get boring, it doesn't get stagnant, you're always learning something."
Newman enjoys socializing with friends on weekends and traveling with her husband, Andy, to Duluth and Park Rapids to visit family. She and her husband also are active in a snowmobile club.
"We don't have children so we just kind of pick up and go whenever we want," Newman said.
At 10 years with the city, Haugen is affectionately known as Mother Mary.
"She's the granddaddy," Newman said. "If we need something fixed or don't know where it's at, we go to Mary."
Haugen and her husband, Rich, used to own the Champion Auto Store in Brainerd. When she came to Baxter she spent two years in Hart's position at the front desk before moving to the Public Works department.
Her job with Public Works involves overseeing the cemetery work, providing administrative support, serving as secretary of the Utilities Commission and handling all sewer, water and road issues.
"And when plow trucks hit mailboxes she gets the call," Newman said with a laugh.
It's the challenge of the job that keeps her going, Haugen said.
"You never know what the day is going to bring," she said. While she doesn't have kids, Haugen said her free time is spent with her six nieces and nephews or with her 4-year-old chocolate Lab, Cody, affectionately nicknamed Big Sweetie.
"That dog has a tail that could knock over a small child in a heartbeat," Newman joked.
It also helps that the three are friends outside of work with home demonstration parties, shopping trips and celebrating birthday parties. Hart's and Newman's birthdays are close, so one time the two made their birthdays one party.
"Breezy Point will never be the same," Newman said.
They try to keep it light at work, setting up Fun Fridays where the staff members order in food and try to enjoy lunch without thinking about work.
"It helps morale a little bit," Hart said. "It's a chance to actually talk to people about something other than about work."
Haugen said it's important for not just the three of them but all Baxter staff to get along at work because of the amount of hours they put in on the job.
"After awhile, because you spend so much time with them, they become kind of your family," Haugen said. "You see them probably more than you see your own family."
Newman agreed, noting both her husband and Haugen's husband are on the road a lot for work.
"Honestly, I spend more time with Mary and Angela than I do my husband," Newman said.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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