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Looking back, looking forward

Fri, Dec 20th, 2013
Posted in All Government

Karen Brown has served Fillmore County as county coordinator for more than 20 years. Photo provided by Karen Brown

For more than 20 years Karen Brown has served Fillmore County as its county coordinator. December 31 will be her last day of work with the county. She says she will miss the challenges, the people, and the politics, but feels the county will be in good hands with its new county coordinator, Bobbie Vickerman, who started on December 3.

On December 27 there will be a retirement open house for Brown from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the courtroom.

Brown and her husband Jim have two grown daughters and four grandchildren. She and her husband, who is also retired, have plans to spend some time down south, to enjoy more time with their children and grandchildren, and to relax and fish on the river.

As a freshman in high school at Peterson, Brown’s interest in politics received a boost when her teacher sent an essay she had written for an assignment to the Rushford paper. She explained she always has had an interest in politics and current events.

Prior to being hired as coordinator in April 1993, she had worked for 14 years in northeast Iowa on welfare reform.

The duties of the coordinator have evolved over the years. When she was hired, there wasn’t an EDA or a separate human resources position. The primary responsibility of the coordinator is to support the county board. None of the board members who hired her serve on today’s board. Brown related that she has worked with a total of 13 commissioners over the years.

Although there is always room for improvement, she seemed comfortable with how she will be leaving things and stressed the public expects the county to operate as lean and efficient as possible.

Perhaps the most obvious change over the years has been an explosion of technology. In 1993 a typewriter was used to record the county board’s minutes. Brown pointed to the implementation of the electronic document management system for social services that allows secure access to information and improved efficiency as an example of the continuing movement toward more electronic documents.

Karen Brown received the Joe Ries Excellence in County Management Award from the Association of County Administrators in 2008. She acknowledged that this recognition from her peers was a high point. The lowest point was the flood of 2007. Brown remembered how hard it was to see so many people suffering. The county worked to provide services and to get information out during and after the disaster.

Brown, whose husband is a veteran, was part of the cooperative effort to make the Southeast Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery a reality. The foresight to donate the land, which would have had significant value, will bring an economic value to the area forever.

Finally, Brown maintained there is always a push-pull with the media. She acknowledges an effort to build a relationship with the media by providing the information she could and protecting the information which needed protection. For this reporter, she has always been willing to answer questions and has been helpful in clarifying information.

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