Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, January 11, 1999

Wright County says goodbye to Nelson, Groshens, and Rose

By John Holler

Annually when the calendar flips from one year to the next, it serves as time to reflect on the past as well as look to the future.

At the Dec. 29 meeting of the Wright County Board, it was more of a time for reflection, as the county board said good bye to three people who have been critical components in the county's recent history - Commissioner Judie Rose, Auditor/Treasurer Darla Groshens and County Attorney Wyman Nelson.

All of them have placed their own personal stamp on how Wright County has been run and how it will operate in the future. All have made an impact that made them valued employees of the county, but all shared two common threads - they all are proud of their service to the county and they all found that leaving would become more emotional than they had imagined.

"It's always difficult to lose people who have meant so much to the county," Commissioner Jack Russek said. "But, when you lose three people who have meant so much for so long, it's even more difficult."

Each will leave a legacy with the county and, while all officially left their public capacity Jan. 1, their achievements will live on long after they've left. Here is a short look at all three.

Three times a charm

Wyman Nelson served Wright County on three separate occasions. His first stint was brief - filling out the remainder of the county attorney's term at the end of 1966. He then returned in 1972 after winning the election, but resigned in 1977 because the position was merely part-time and it wasn't cost feasible to stay. He returned again in 1991, defeating incumbent Bill McPhail and has served as county attorney ever since.

"When I took over in 1972, there wasn't a county attorney office per se - I was it," Nelson said. "I did all the felony work and civil work and, even then, about 80 percent of my income came from my private practice. It was a lot of work to have the job back then."

Nelson returned after the office was recognized for the support that it required. While he did his first full stint as county attorney, he was the only person in the office. Now there are 17 staff members and that may still be too few. Last year, the county attorney's office opened 6,000 new files - 2,000 of those files being juvenile files.

Of all the things that Nelson will miss, it is the special relationship that he had with the county officials he worked the closest with that will be his biggest regret about retiring."

"(Sheriff) Don Hozempa and I have come to be close friends and could work so well together," Nelson said. "We had full confidence in each other and it's rare to have a relationship between a county attorney and a sheriff that worked as well as ours has. I also was able to build a very good relationship with the county board. While they didn't always agree with what I advised them, we had a good enough relationship that they understood the reasons why I gave them the legal opinions I did and they respected them."

Nelson leaves a county attorney's office that is well equipped to move into the next millennium with a solid footing, able to meet the growing challenges of prosecuting criminals and keeping the quality of life in Wright County as good as possible. The war on crime is not just a phrase for Nelson, life in his office has often taken on that attitude.

"In our office, it's been kind of like being in the army," Nelson said. "In crisis situations, you get closer to those around you than you would otherwise and you make friendships that will last a lifetime. I'll miss these people a lot after I'm not here."

By the numbers

Darla Groshens came to Wright County as an employee in November 1970, and has been the auditor/treasurer since 1991.

A good portion of her working life has been spent in the Wright County Courthouse, but leaving has been an ongoing source of emotional conflict.

"It's been hard for me the last month or so, but I'm going to enjoy retirement," Groshens said. "I've been prepared for it, but then someone will pull out some old pictures and the crying will start. We've stopped talking about it, but you get those times where it gets emotional."

For her part, the job has been much more than a 9-to-5 existence. With numerous law changes in the taxing authorities, Groshens bedside nightstand has often been filled with documents outlining the changes she didn't have time for at the office - "my bedtime reading" as she calls it. Her office has grown from seven people when she arrived to 25 now and she appreciates her background before the technological age tried to automate everything.

"I enjoy being from a background where we did everything manually," Groshens said. "Automation is great, but it's nice to know how things are supposed to work if something breaks down. People who have only dealt with automation are lost if it breaks. We could still go on."

While Groshens often had to deal with hostile members of the public, some who blamed her personally for higher property taxes or what they perceived as mistakes, she was as pleasant as possible.

As she sees it, "Everybody vents off some steam now and then. Usually, I would just let them do it and see what we could do about (the problem) when they were done. We all get mad. You learn to deal with it."

Despite those problem moments, it was dealing with the public that she'll miss most.

"I always enjoyed working with people," Groshens said. "Helping them out and trying to solve a problem was always something I liked doing - especially seeing a problem get solved. That is what I'll miss the most about leaving here."

It's hard to say good bye

Judie Rose has been a Wright County commissioner since 1993, but, unlike Nelson and Groshens, her leaving is not by choice. She lost an election to Elmer Eichelberg of St. Michael - an election that came down to hometown voting and one fro which Rose still has some regrets.

"In previous elections, I didn't have St. Michael in my commissioner district," Rose said. "This one came down to Buffalo and St. Michael. I lost one-third of Buffalo due to redistricting and (Eichelberg) did very well in St. Michael. That's what made the difference."

The final month of her term has been very emotional for Rose, who has provided a woman's viewpoint to the commissioners, as well as fighting against over-conservatism on the board. She has been a strong proponent of two causes for which she feels very strongly - protection of Wright County lakes with wastewater treatment and economic development within the county - both of which have made great strides with her battling for their cause.

While she is still weighing employment options after her commissioner term expires, she is looking back with fondness on her time as a commissioner.

"I had such good working relationships with the commissioners and the department heads," Rose said. "I've made many friends and will miss them all tremendously."

Three different people. Three different backgrounds. Three different jobs. But they have one thing they will share - those who had the privilege to work with them will miss them in 1999 and beyond. They're appreciated and respected - that's why they'll be missed.

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