By Nan Royce
She’s not in Kansas anymore, and she’s just fine with that.
Howard Lake’s newest employee, Aurora Yager began working for the city June 5 as assistant city administrator.
She’s been purposely on a path to the position for a long time.
She grew up in Kansas, and went to college at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work, and her master’s degree in public administration.
Along the way she married her high school sweetheart, Trevor Prater.
(Yager shared that the pair began dating as sophomores in high school, went to their junior and senior proms together, and were in marching band and honors classes together.
Yager wanted to attend the University of Kansas for its social work program, and Prater got a scholarship there.
She attributes their long-term success to their solid friendship and support of each other.)
The duo eventually landed in the metro of Minnesota, with Yager working for the City of Eden Prairie. The couple lives in northeast Minneapolis.
Yager said she was thrilled when she discovered the job opening in Howard Lake. She indicated assistant administrator positions can be difficult to find.
“I was specifically looking for an assistant position in the outer metro,” she said. “I’m very picky about my job.”
Yager said the interview process for the position took applicants through a series of steps.
First, there was an initial interview, then there was a writing exercise in which applicants were asked to write about park planning.
The field of over 50 candidates was then narrowed to six.
Yager was worried when she learned final interviews were to take place while she was finishing her master’s degree work and graduating.
She was relieved when offered the opportunity to take part in a Skype interview with city staff and the council.
Following the online interview, Yager was offered the position that evening.
(City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller said Yager’s qualifications were readily apparent.
“At every step in the selection process, Aurora clearly demonstrated herself as being intelligent, but with traits of humility,” he said. She was well-written and well-spoken, eager to jump into projects to learn, or even take a leadership role. She successfully and politely challenged the council through thoughtful questions asked in turn.)
The following Monday, Yager met with Haggenmiller and Police Chief Dave Thompson.
The trio drove around the city and discussed all the projects in progress.
Throughout the interview process, Yager grew increasingly more eager about the possibility of working for Howard Lake.
Her enthusiasm has continued now that she’s on the job.
Yager’s duties for the city include working with a lot of the city’s financial information, such as the capital improvement fund and equipment plans.
She also works the human resources angle, by managing employee benefits. Yager has big goals for updating the city’s website and Facebook presence. “I want those to represent Howard Lake well,” she said.
Yager said she already enjoys the city’s small town vibe, and appreciates the opportunity to work closely with her colleagues.
Coming from a larger city, she often worked alongside people she didn’t really know.
“It was more detached,” she said. “Here, I’m talking to (police chief) Dave, or I’m talking to (public works director) Tom (Goepfert),” she said. “I like the collaboration.”
Yager said her first month with the city has flown by. “It’s a fire hose of information,” she said, “There is a lot going on, which I like. Projects are really moving here.”
She admits that working in small-town administration means wearing many hats, and she is happy to juggle them all.
“I’m a positive person, and I’m excited to be here,” she said. “There’s going to be some really great stuff happening, and I want the people to know me.”
She said meeting and talking with residents is one of her favorite parts of the job. “People want to feel personally close to you,” she said. “That’s precious.”
Yager said her goals are many, and she laughingly says she is not going to “just sit back and drink (administrator) Nick’s Kool-Aid.”
She is determined to be a positive force for the city. “I want to make downtown a destination,” she said. “I want to make it an even more beautiful and desirable place to be.”