By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN It’s back to business as usual at Winsted City Hall since Andrew Elbert took over as new city administrator July 26.
Elbert is filling a position that was left vacant since May 17 when Brent Mareck became city administrator for the City of Carver.
Elbert brings several years of experience in city government to the job, but said he “has big shoes to fill.”
“I think Brent did an excellent job with everything that I have seen so far,” Elbert said. “I want to keep it (the city) moving forward in the same direction.”
Before coming to Winsted, Elbert was city administrator of Prairie City, IA for almost three years.
He also served two internships one in St. Francis in Anoka County, and the other in Medina.
He has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of North Dakota, and got his master’s in public administration at Hamline University in St. Paul.
In Prairie City, one of the most recent projects Elbert was involved with was revitalizing the city’s downtown. The buildings were in need of repair, according to Elbert, and a TIF (tax increment financing) district was created to help fund the redevelopment project.
Just recently, Elbert learned Prairie City had approved an application for a restaurant, which shows progress being made in the downtown project.
“I am a big marketing person and believe you have to find out what your niche is,” Elbert said. “You are not going to be everything to everyone. You have to find out what makes your community stand out from other communities. That is what you focus your energy on.”
Elbert has always had an interest in planning and community development. He enjoys just driving through or visiting other towns, and seeing what others are doing.
He considers himself a city employee to the core someone who could see himself on vacation in another city taking pictures of the town’s curb and gutter, or what the police car looks like for future reference.
City government has held an appeal for Elbert that dates back to his high school days.
While attending Grand Forks High School, which was right next door to the city hall, he took advantage of the opportunity to shadow city employees two or three times a year, learning more about the different kinds of government jobs that were available.
His father also influenced Elbert’s career choice. He was a state highway patrol officer who retired after 30 years of duty. Through his father, he was able to see the rewards of public service firsthand.
A devastating flood in Grand Forks in 1997, once again drew his attention to government.
“I saw how government responded, both good and bad,” Elbert said.
He was still in high school when his family was told to evacuate their home because of a possible flood. They lived seven miles from the river, and when they left, they took little with them thinking it wasn’t possible for the water to reach their home. It did, and they lost all of their possessions except a tub of baseball cards belonging to Elbert.
“We were out of our house for three or four months and stayed with grandparents and other family,” Elbert said, “but we were able to move back into our house. I had friends that lost everything.”
Living through the flood, Elbert said, has given him a greater perspective of life and what is really important.
One of the things that is very important to him is his family which includes his wife, Laura, and son, William, 3.
Elbert and Laura just celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary, Aug. 8.
“When people ask me what my hobby is, I tell them my family,” Elbert said. “When I do have free time, I like to spend it with them.”
Laura is a physical therapist at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute out of Abbott Northwestern Hospital. She works with patients with severe injuries, including spinal cord injuries.
Elbert said he has multiple reasons for taking the job of city administrator in Winsted.
One reason was that it allowed his family to move closer to home. Elbert’s family is still living in Grand Forks, and Laura’s lives in Stillwater. From Iowa, the family had a four-or-five-hour drive just to the Twin Cities.
The Elberts are still trying to sell their home in Prairie City and until their home is sold, they are looking for rental housing in Winsted.
“I hope people understand. I just can’t see myself taking out two mortgages,” Elbert said.
For his first few weeks as city administrator, Elbert wants to spend the time understanding how Winsted’s city hall functions, how everyone is doing their job, and what that job responsibility is.
“Every city has its own rules and its own codes, and you just have to adapt and learn. That is what I am focusing on,” Elbert said.
Elbert added he is happy to be in Winsted and considers it a good community with a forward-thinking mayor and council. He welcomes the opportunity to work in this type of environment.
In his short time here, Elbert took time to attend Winsted’s National Night Out and was impressed with how well the event was attended.
“There is a lot of residential response to things and great community pride, and that is awesome,” Elbert added. “Kudos to the people, and business owners involved in that, because that is what moves a community forward, and it keeps it going. You can’t put a price on that.”