Dee Slinde takes over for Julie Kiehne as Lanesboro's Chamber of Commerce executive director.  BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Dee Slinde takes over for Julie Kiehne as Lanesboro's Chamber of Commerce executive director. BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
With Julie Kiehne moving on from her position as the executive director of the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce, the board had been searching for someone new to take her place. Recently, the chamber named Dee Slinde as Kiehne's successor.

Slinde grew up in London, Minn., about 20 minutes from Austin. In her teens, her parents bought a farm where they lived for more than 30 years and where her mother still lives. Much of her family still resides in the Austin area. She is not married, but she does have a partner. Each year, for Mother's Day, her family gets together for a fun pow-wow. The men in her family head off fishing during the season opener and the women journey to a bed and breakfast in the area. They have never hit Lanesboro, at least not yet.

After moving on to college, Slinde acquired degrees related to business and became a general manager at several retailers. From there she moved on to work for Cardinal Stritch University as director of enrollment and corporate and community relations.

Though she has had much experience in business, she has another side of her that is a little different. For several years, Slinde has been traveling around to horse shows and going to Forestville State Park to ride the horse trails. In addition, she likes art, fishing, hiking and biking.

Slinde first arrived in Lanesboro on a rainy day on vacation a few years ago. She and her companions thought to simply buy lunch in the community, but the artistic flare of the town captivated them to stay for nearly five hours.

"I fell in love with Lanesboro," she declared. "When I came to the community, I saw a unique dichotomy in the area with its arts, theatre and shopping. I was drawn to Lanesboro through the events and the town's vibe. I decided I wanted to move here."

Slinde moved to Lanesboro in November of last year, renting the house of a couple who leaves during the winter. She plans on living there until April and is hoping to buy her own home in town soon. Initially, besides enjoying the unique aspects of Lanesboro, she came to the area looking to start a business. While investigating the idea, she met with Kiehne who mentioned she was moving on from the executive director position.

"I lit up," she said. "This position is doing the same thing as I did for the University, only it is for a community. It was serendipity, a very happy accident."

As she applied for the position, she stressed to the board she was not looking for a job. "I loved my job at the university. I was only considering this position because it was this position," she stated.

Though she has not been directly involved in the chamber in this specific position, she has worked with several different chambers in Rochester, Austin and Owatonna through the University. The University supplied speakers through a vast and well-experienced group of people. They also worked with businesses such as Viracon in Owatonna to set up educational opportunities that take the people within the business and give them managerial experiences.

As the executive director of the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce, Slinde hopes to promote the community through developing more relationships with businesses, other areas and the townspeople themselves. "I want to work on behalf of the community members to bring new ideas and opportunities in to the area," she said.

Slinde has many ideas. Some of these are to work closely with other surrounding communities and organizations such as Explore Minnesota and Mississippi Bluff Trails as well as working on the bike trail system in the area and create more wealth for the community.

Another area she hopes to work on is the business district dropping hours during the winter months. She suggested having more business retreats mid-week, drawing tourism in through Rochester to Lanesboro, finding new people to come to the area and not simply tourists. She hopes to work on more events to run which would extend the season by drawing more winter events and new festivals to the forefront. One winter event she is currently researching is fat bike trail riding for those who like to continue riding the trail during the winter.

Since she has only been at the job a little over a week, Slinde has not yet discussed these ideas with the board. However, she is greatly looking forward to serving the Lanesboro community as the chamber's new director. She already appreciates the community for its friendliness.

"I have lived in three different homes up in the Cities over the past 35 years, but I have gotten to know more people in Lanesboro over the past three months than I ever did living in the Cities. This job has been much more friendly than many other places," she emphasized.

One such example of the friendliness she remembers with fondness happened at the gas station in a nearby town. She stopped in for directions to a meeting being held about the Destination Medical Center when someone behind her volunteered to let Slinde follow her to the meeting. "She was not even going to the meeting, but people here will go out of their way to help people," she added.

Still attracted to Lanesboro and its businesses as she was when she first arrived in Lanesboro, she has enjoyed the opportunities that come with living here.

Slinde has dined at all but one restaurant and has shopped in the stores around town. She has not yet visited all the bed and breakfasts, but she hopes to remedy that in the near future, bringing her family in the process.

Slinde is a big fan of Paul Wellstone and his comment "We all do better when we all do better." This has become her motto and she seeks to employ this mantra while she serves the community of Lanesboro. She desires to develop her relationships with the community members and businesses, contributing to their success and working to ensure their future success.