By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, MN Gene Gilbert has served as the Howard Lake city clerk for 30 years, but she hasn’t had her fill of the job yet.
“I love it here,” she said. “There are very few days when I do not want to come to work.”
City councils, staff members, and local residents have come and gone, but Gilbert has been a long-time staple of the Howard Lake community.
When people have questions, Gilbert said they tease her, saying, “Gene will know.”
Laughing, Gilbert admitted that although she doesn’t know everything about Howard Lake, “longevity does have a little advantage.”
Gilbert’s first day as city clerk was June 2, 1980. She had previously been a full-time secretary for Mawseco special education in Cokato.
“I had a 4-year-old at the time, and was looking for something part time,” Gilbert said. “It was perfect.”
Gilbert started out working four hours a day, which gave her more time to spend taking care of her family.
Later, when her sons, Jason and Brett, were in school, Gilbert increased to working six hours per day.
“I could still get them off to school in the morning and be done with work before they got home,” she said.
Eventually, Gilbert started working full time.
“It progressed,” she said. “My hours got longer as my children got older.”
That kind of flexibility is one reason why Gilbert has enjoyed her job so much. Growing up, Gilbert had always thought she would become a kindergarten teacher, but she’s glad she followed a different path.
“It worked out so well with having children,” she said.
Gilbert said she’s also enjoyed working with the city staff and councils.
“I haven’t had a council that’s been difficult to work with,” she said.
One of Gilbert’s favorite parts of the job is helping with the election every two years.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s a wonderful thing to be involved with,” she said.
During her first year on the job, the city administrator quit, and Gilbert remembers being a little nervous about doing the elections.
Now, Gilbert looks forward to election season, and she’s also helped with elections at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School.
A few of Gilbert’s other job duties include taking care of accounts payable, payroll, and writing the minutes from city council meetings twice each month.
Gilbert’s clerical skills date back several years. She was born in Hopkins, and moved to Howard Lake at age 16. After graduating from high school in 1969, Gilbert became a computer control clerk at Gambles, a full-service hardware company in the Twin Cities.
Then, she worked as a medical assistant for Dr. Shin in Howard Lake for about a year.
Gilbert married her husband, Ron, in 1971. The couple moved to Walnut Creek, CA for six months, but then decided to come back home.
“It was kind of a busy place to live,” Gilbert said. “We really missed the small town.”
Before they had children, Gilbert and her husband traveled throughout the US. Now, Gilbert said she is content to stay closer to home, and spends much of her free time with her four grandchildren.
“We have a camper at Codger’s Cove,” she said. “We don’t have to travel far to go to the lake.”
Gilbert said she loves living in Howard Lake, and said that the friendly community atmosphere is what draws people to the area.