By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN After six years as mayor, a year on Howard Lake City Council, and 13 years on the Howard Lake-Waverly and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school boards, Rick Lammers will be ending his time as an elected official.
“Rick was a good mayor, who really did what he thought was best for the city of Howard Lake, not what was best for Rick,” said former city administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp.
During his time as mayor, Lammers was able to get many projects, both large and small, completed in Howard Lake.
“He was very diligent on what needed to be done,” noted City Council Member Tom Kutz. “The city was put first whatever was best for the city as a community.”
Some of the projects Lammers is most proud of are the joint wastewater treatment plant, Howard Lake Foods, and the assisted living facility.
Without partnering with Annandale and Maple Lake for the wastewater treatment plant, Lammers noted it would have been nearly impossible to get a permit for a new plant from the state due to phosphorus restrictions.
Bringing a grocery store back to Howard Lake is another project that took place while Lammers was mayor.
“Without bringing that back, we would have an empty building. Now, it is a viable business,” Kutz said.
“I think we have an exceptionally fine store. Very nice and well-kept,” Lammers said.
As for the assisted living project, Lammers noted that was something talked about when he first became mayor.
“People in the community, when they get to the point where they have a hard time caring for themselves, want to stay in the community,” Lammers said.
However, there is only a nursing home in Howard Lake at this time, and when community members start to need help, that often does not mean needing 24-hour-per-day nursing care, he noted.
An assisted living facility would provide a place for those who need a little bit of help with day-to-day tasks while remaining a part of the community with which they are familiar, Lammers added.
Although it is not built yet, construction is expected to begin on the assisted living facility this coming spring.
“I am so happy we are finally able to get that,” Lammers said.
Lammers also really wanted a bakery or coffeeshop back in Howard Lake.
“I hate to see any retail business leave a community. It is hard to get back,” Lammers noted.
He admits some decisions were difficult and, at times, made people angry, but “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” he said.
When an unpopular decision was made, Lammers noted he tried to sit down and explain the decision.
“They still might not like it, but at least they understand,” Lammers said.
Although local government aid has been on the chopping block for many cities, and is a worry many mayors and councils have faced recently, Lammers noted he has never wanted to cut services.
“That would mean stepping backwards, and we have come so far in the past decade,” he added.
“We have a great, exceptional crew who do a great job and listen to the needs of the people,” Lammers said of the city staff who provide those services.
A life of public service
Lammers had led a lifetime of serving the public, both as an elected official and in his career.
He will continue to do so through his current employment at Chilson Funeral Homes, but his life in public service began right out of high school.
Following in the footsteps of his father, who was a military police officer in Korea, Lammers entered the US Army after graduating from Howard Lake-Waverly High School in 1974.
“There were only about three from my graduating class who went into the military,” Lammers noted.
When asked why he chose to go into the service, he said, “I wanted to be just like dad.”
When Lammers entered the service, it was the end of the Vietnam War, with Saigon falling in 1975.
However, he did not serve in Vietnam, but in West Germany. For his last two years of service, Lammers served at Berchtesgaden, providing security for high-profile generals and other important political figures.
Some of the people he remembers guarding are General Alexander Haig, General Bernard Rogers, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat, Muhammad Ali, and General Erwin Rommel’s son, Manfred.
Following four years of military service, Lammers worked for the Veterans Administration in St. Cloud for almost a year before becoming a Big Lake police officer.
He joined the Buffalo Police Department in July 1980, and was a patrol officer until September 1987, when he became an investigator and the school liaison officer.
Lammers was then promoted to detective, a job he did for 18 years. Following two more years as a patrol officer at the end of his career, Lammers retired from the Buffalo Police Department Jan. 15, 2007.
In 2003, Lammers was named sex crime investigator of the year.
Although he was an officer in Wright County, Lammers noted criminals do not pay attention to county lines, and he did a great deal of work with metro agencies and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
In 1998, he was president of the Hennepin County Chief of Police Advisory Board.
While working as a police officer, Lammers served as an elected member of the HL-W, and then the HLWW school board for 13 years, two of them as chair.
“My children were attending the school and I wanted to be more involved,” Lammers said. “We have a good school district here, with great people.”
Lammers also served a year as a Howard Lake City Council member before being elected mayor in November 2006.
Not only has Lammers served the public in his career and as an elected official, he has also led community initiatives.
In 1994, he was the chair of the 125th anniversary committee in Waverly, and the chair of the Buffalo Veterans Park commission.
He has been a member of the American Legion for 30 years, in Buffalo, Waverly, and Howard Lake.
“I am proud to have served my country and my community,” Lammers noted.
After 20 years in elected office, Lammers will now have more time to spend with family, which includes wife, Judi (Barth) Kelley, whom he married in September.
Other family members include his son, Jim, a police officer in Winsted; daughter Angela Fox, her husband, Darrin; and his three granddaughters, Bren, 12; Ayla, 6; and Cali Jo, 5.
“Of all the accolades and titles I have earned in life, my favorite is Papa,” Lammers said proudly about his grandchildren.