By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Although he celebrated his 82nd birthday May 21, Lester Prairie resident Ed Mlynar is still finding ways to serve his community, carrying on a habit he started more than 65 years ago.
His lifetime of service began when he was a student in the 1940s, and, one way or another, he has been involved in just about every major project that has taken place in Lester Prairie since that time.
In 1950, Mlynar volunteered to serve his country, spending three years in the Army Combat Engineers. During that time, he served in Japan, Korea, and in the US.
After returning to Minnesota, Mlynar joined a new local Jaycees chapter in Lester Prairie in 1954.
Jaycees activities included organizing a three-day “Fun Orama” summer celebration, including a carnival, parade, and queen coronation.
There was also a Black and White show, in which McLeod County farmers entered their Holsteins for judging.
The first park shelter was another Jaycees project, Mlynar noted.
Also in 1954, Mlynar joined Ray Kirkpatrick American Legion Post 463 in Lester Prairie.
For more than 60 years, Mlynar has been a member of the Legion, and he is still active today.
One of the most recent projects with which he has been involved is the Veterans Memorial in Lester Prairie’s Central Square Park.
Since 2009, Mlynar, along with other Legion members, has worked to solicit names for the monuments in the memorial.
Mlynar has been a tireless promoter of the memorial, which has been expanded with more monuments to accommodate additional names.
In 1965, Mlynar, along with Art Schwichtenberg, Louie Jenneke, Harold Lemke, and Bill McGowan organized efforts toward the construction of an outdoor city pool.
“This would have been where I learned how to get the most out of volunteers,” Mlynar recalled.
Apart from a foreman, who was paid, the entire project was built with donations and volunteer labor, Mlynar said.
He noted he ramrodded a 2003 project to renovate the pool, during which $250,000 in donations was collected.
“That’s what you can do when you are retired,” Mlynar said.
Mlynar has a long history of service in city government.
From 1977 to 1980, he served on the Lester Prairie Planning Commission.
From 1981 to 1984, Mlynar served on the city council. Due to work responsibilities, he chose not to run again until 1991, when he filed and was re-elected.
Two years into that term on the city council, Mlynar ran for mayor, and was elected for three consecutive terms.
He noted the years he served as mayor and on the council were busy ones for Lester Prairie. Projects included construction of a new water tower, a small housing development north of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, updating the wastewater treatment facility, and construction of a new city hall and fire station.
Another of Mlynar’s activities was helping to bring ShadowBrooke Golf Course to the area (located near the intersection of Highway 7 and McLeod County Road 1). This began in 1992, with a second nine holes added in 1996.
Mlynar’s other volunteer service has included:
• Board of directors, Midwest Poultry Federation, as an industry supporter 1993-98.
• Governor’s advisory council, streamlining the Uniform Building Code, 1996-98.
• Member of the Highway 7 Coalition (to improve Highway 7), 1993-95, as well as participation in the Trunk Highway 7 corridor study (1995-96) that resulted in the addition of turn lanes, passing lanes, and a 60 m.p.h. speed limit from Montevideo to Highway 25 in Carver County.
Mlynar does not have much patience for people who make excuses for not doing things.
He has spent most of his life volunteering, and even now, he sees no reason to stop.
He noted that just because people have retired, it does not mean their brain has stopped working.
“Why not use it?” is his message.
Just about anyone can remain active if he wants to, he commented.
“When you retire, there are still things you can do,” he noted.
Mlynar admits he has always been into promoting things in which he believed.
“I am the Wally Karbo of Lester Prairie,” he laughed, referring to the late professional wrestling promoter and co-founder of the American Wrestling Association.
Mlynar attributes some of his success to being “at the right place at the right time.”
Among the advantages of volunteering are “you get to know and make connections with other people,” he said.
Fundraisers are another way Mlynar has served his community, including three major fundraisers for St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie, of which he and his late wife, Florence, were members.
“They knew if Ed and Florence were involved, they better dig deep,” Mlynar laughed. “I learned a little bit about how to get money out of a billfold.”
He makes no apologies for his persuasive style.
“If there’s a need to get something done, and if the majority of the people feel it should take place, let it take place,” Mlynar said.
He added that he doesn’t ask others to contribute toward a project unless he is willing to support it himself.
“Naturally, when you are going to do those things, you’re going to contribute quite a bit,” he said.
He also advised anyone who is promoting a project to always tell the truth.
Mlynar noted if one believes in a project, one should not become discouraged easily.
“Many times you get a negative reply, but let that not stop a person from trying a different method of whatever you want to accomplish,” he advised.
He has promoted projects he thought the community needed, even when he had no personal stake.
He has been a mentor at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club since it opened, even though he does not hunt or shoot.
He is not a golfer, but he was involved in bringing a golf course to Lester Prairie, with the opening of ShadowBrooke Golf Course.
He owned a house, but worked on bringing development to the city, because it needed more housing in order to allow for growth.
Mlynar has never been afraid to dig into a project, even if it involved things with which he was not familiar.
In the early 1980s, he explained, the state legislature voted to allow horse racing tracks in Minnesota.
Mlynar, who worked for Lester Buildings throughout most of his career, had never been to a race course in his life.
He and his wife traveled to Nebraska, Illinois, and Kentucky, visiting race courses to learn how they were built and what was needed.
He ended up selling 54 of the 55 buildings at the new Canterbury Park. “I sold every building out there except the grandstand,” Mlynar said. “It was a project that lasted roughly 2.5 years.”
Looking back at the many projects he has been involved in over the years, Mlynar has a sense of satisfaction about what he, with the help of others, has been able to accomplish.
“I had fun doing it,” he said.