Former city administrator exploring new opportunities
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 5:14 AM
Almost 10 years ago, Bobbie Vickerman accepted the job opportunity of becoming the Lanesboro city clerk/administrator. The city had not had an administrator for several months and was experiencing issues with negative funds in a few departments. "There was a lot of catch-up work and I remember thinking, 'There's so much to do and to learn!'" recalled Vickerman, who stepped down as city administrator on March 22. She hopes she has left the city in a better place since she started.
After serving the city of Lanesboro for almost 10 years, Bobbie Jo Vickerman stepped down from the clerk/administrator position to take a job working for Winona County. Working for the city and developing relationships with Lanesboro citizens and the city council members are the things she says she will cherish the most. PHOTO BY ANTON ADAMEK/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Vickerman earned a degree in accounting from Luther College and she had also studied economics. She found herself needing a change from the job she was employed at when she was 27 years old and living in Lanesboro.
When the clerk/administrator position was advertised, she felt it would be a great opportunity to put her skills to work and help the city she lived in. What she hadn't expected as much was the learning curve she would experience when she started.
"I had to pick a lot of things up as I went along," she recalled.
Vickerman said she has been lucky with the great staff and council members who were with her as she was learning the ropes. Many of the issues the city faced during that time Vickerman was able to resolve, starting with the negative fund balances in utilities. Being able to see multiple factors in problems and finding the solution that would better business owners, the city and its citizens was, at times, difficult.
"Both the citizens and business owners are your clients," Vickerman shared. "You find that you get spread thin in providing services and trying to manage the cost of those services."
Finding additional sources of funding has been one of the hallmarks of Vickerman's time spent in office. She was integral in acquiring large grants for the historic restoration of the dam. This provided the city $300,000 in 2012 and a potential of up to $1.3 million dollars from the state bonding bill and a DNR matching grant. Vickerman said the new administrator will need to keep pursuing those sources of additional funding.
She also was able to get the bike trail under County Road 8 to be entirely paid for with grant money as well as the replacement of playground equipment.
Vickerman said the passage of the Lanesboro sales tax was also one of the highlights of her time as administrator. She noted there was a lot of perseverance involved with getting grants.
"You get turned down a lot, but you just keep trying," she said. "You have to find extra money so the local people don't have to pay more."
Recognizing the necessity of money, Vickerman also shared, "It's a lot more than just managing money. You are trying to help people out."
She said one of the most important lessons she had learned while working in Lanesboro was listening to everyone. "Everyone deserves to be listened to. If someone is really upset about something, you help them work out the issue," she added. "You can't do everything for everybody, but you try to help everyone you can."
Being an effective communicator was something Vickerman was able to strengthen through her relationships with citizens and the city council.
"I think in any job you have to build relationships and networking opportunities and communication is huge," she shared. Vickerman considers the council and staff to be like family. "I have so many years of memories. They can make me laugh and they always helped me out when I was stressed. You really grow attached to these people."
Vickerman moved to a newly built house in 2006 near Mabel where she now lives with her husband, Cory, and her two children, Coranda and Brodie. She said they have been supportive of her decision to take a new job working as the Deputy Finance Director for Winona County. She said the commute is about the same as it was to Lanesboro, but the job will be "quite a bit different."
She will be helping to create policies and procedures for the finance department as well as team building and cross training setup.
"It's a more specific area and it will be challenging in its own way, but I'll be getting back to some of my roots with my college education," Vickerman explained.
She noted that the Lanesboro administrator position has evolved away from what she has experience in with more capital planning, project development and grant applications.
"I think a perfect person for that job would be able to take all the things going on in Lanesboro and be able to work with all the different entities there," she remarked. "You have to continue to make Lanesboro a destination while looking out for the residents."
Vickerman was introduced to the Winona County job by a friend, and she felt it was time for another change. "I'm always trying to find ways to improve and better myself, and I think this job will challenge me in different ways."
She will initially be very busy, but Vickerman hopes she will be able to have more time to pursue her other passions in coaching and watching sports and being involved with her church's council. She is also considering getting a master's degree in public administration.
Despite moving on in her life, Vickerman said she has been very happy with being a part of Lanesboro and getting to know the people.
"I'm going to truly miss everyone and I do care about everyone here. I've been able to create long-lasting relationships here and I plan on continuing them," she concluded. "Being in a large county government will be different, but I'll still have that small town girl lifestyle."