Calling it a career

June 9, 2008

Hagelin retires after 15 years with Franklin Twp.

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

It’s a lot more than 5.9 miles.

After being elected to a position she never really wanted, Geri Hagelin found Franklin Township to provide her many opportunities and play a big part in her life – as well as many 5.9 mile round-trips from her home to the township hall.

Fifteen years ago, Hagelin threw her name into the hat as a write-in candidate for the then-elected treasurer position of the township. It was the Thursday night before the Tuesday township election in 1993, and she was asked to file because of her background in finance. Hagelin served as the financial secretary at Trinity Lutheran in Watertown for 15 years prior.

“Norma Chadwick (then-township clerk) called me and said there was an open position for the treasurer, and I said ‘absolutely not,’” Hagelin recalled.

Chadwick assured Hagelin it would not be hard work for her because of her background, and she also assured Hagelin it would only be for the two-year term.

“The rest is history,” Hagelin recalled with a laugh, as she sat on her screened porch discussing her 15-year tenure.

Even though she didn’t want the position, she admits she called a handful of neighbors and let them know she was running – simply because she didn’t want to not receive any votes.

When Chadwick retired from the clerk position in 1999, the Franklin Township Board combined the positions of clerk/treasurer, and also made it a non-elected position.

“Many other townships have done that and continue to do that – especially the large ones, the ones that are busier with more urban things,” Hagelin said, noting it helps with consistency and continuity. She admitted it is scary to think anyone with no background or understanding of finance could have been elected to the position and have to deal with a roughly-million dollar budget.

But, because of Hagelin’s background, she said the learning curve after she was elected to the treasurer position wasn’t too bad.

“The transition was really a natural one,” she said.

Over the years, she’s dealt with hundreds of phone calls and issues ranging from unplowed or rough roadways, to permit requests, elections, and erosion. The biggest issue, though, was annexation.

“Without question,” Hagelin said. “It was the era of the PUDS (planned unit developments). It was a changing and growing Franklin Township.”

In 1994, the Franklin Township Board adopted a land-use plan, and explained the township’s growth area. She said when she was first elected, there was no annexation agreement with the City of Delano

“There were a lot of meetings with the City of Delano that ended in a lot of what’s called ‘take by ordinance,’ but they (the city) never took without the property owners’ consent,” Hagelin explained. “As long as it’s abutting and the property owner wants to go in (to the city), they can do it by ordinance.”

From the period of extensive growth in the township through now, like everything else, Hagelin said she’s observed the economy change.

“Last year there was nothing,” she said about new growth in the township.

Over the years, Hagelin is proud to have worked with neighboring township and city officials, as well as the Brighton Avenue bridge project, the stabilization of the Deegan Avenue river bank, the adoption of the recent land-use plan, and working with FEMA during the flood years. She has also enjoyed working with Irene Bright and Gloria Gooler through the Minnesota Association of Towns and Township and Wright County.

Hagelin also said township attorney Pat Neaton and engineer Ron Bray both provide expertise and insight in protecting the interest of the township. She’s proud to have introduced computer use to the township for record keeping, and has been a strong advocate of the electronic voting machine for elections. Relationships that have been formed over the years, Hagelin said, were one of the best things about the job.

As for the number of phone calls she’s received, Hagelin said she has never worried about the calls, and has never taken them personally.

“You’re always the calming water because many of the calls are when people are upset, and part of the clerk’s job – I considered that a big part of my job – is to be able to handle those calls in a professional, calming way, hoping that you can explain whatever it was to help them.”

When her husband, Carl, retired from his job nine years ago, it was a transition for him to be at their home and receive calls about township business.

“This being the township’s home office, you do get used to it,” Hagelin said. “When he retired nine years ago, he really realized how time- consuming and how much time it took. Like everything else, you acclimate, and it becomes part of your life.

“By and large, I have found that most people, when they understand how things work, what the process is, and what needs to be done, they’ll gruntingly say, ‘I’ll do it,’” she said. “A lot of times, it’s misinformation and misunderstanding that are the biggest causes of unnecessary anger.”

Now that she’s retiring from her position, Hagelin said she has no aspirations to hold an actual position on the township board of supervisors – at least not at this point.

For the time being, Geri and Carl are going to enjoy retirement and focus on their grandchildren. They moved to their home southwest of Delano 24 years ago, which is Carl’s home place, and raised their three children there.

Now, this home is their sanctuary. They don’t have a cabin up north, and don’t get away often, but that may change.

“Our home is where the kids come to get away from it all,” she said. Her children are spread out across the Twin Cities area, and it’s a good retreat for them to get away from the city.

Their daughter, Tammy Carlson, lives in New Hope with children Skyler and Jared. Tammy’s husband passed away last April from cancer.

Steven Hagelin and wife, Michelle, live in Brooklyn Park, and have one son, Hunter.

Mark Hagelin and Amanda Ferrill live in Bloomington with Amanda’s daughter Victoria, who Geri and Carl consider their granddaughter, as well.

“Family’s important to us,” she said, noting she’ll now be watching several of her grandchildren on a more regular basis.

Originally from Buffalo, Hagelin never moved too far away from home. She said she feels there’s a time in life for everything, and she felt now would be the best time for her to call it a career in township government.

She has been training Denise Olson as deputy clerk/treasurer for a little over a year, and the township recently advertised to fill both positions.

“This merry-go-round only goes around once,” Hagelin figured. “Denise has been there a year, and it just felt right.”

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