From community volunteer to mayor: Norgaard begins first term with Crosslake City Council
The Crosslake Economic Development Authority, Light Up the Dam, Lakes Area Music Festival and Minnesota Design Team - these are just a few of the organizations Crosslake's Patty Norgaard has dedicated her time to since becoming a part of the comm...
The Crosslake Economic Development Authority, Light Up the Dam, Lakes Area Music Festival and Minnesota Design Team - these are just a few of the organizations Crosslake's Patty Norgaard has dedicated her time to since becoming a part of the community 11 years ago.
She has now taken her involvement one step further.
"We had a very successful Minnesota Design Team summer," Norgaard said. "And so I think it was just a natural extension for me to become more involved at a higher level in the city."
That higher level is Crosslake mayor, a post Norgaard adds to her civic involvement this year. City government was not always her plan, however. In fact, neither was the career she held for many years before coming to Crosslake.
After studying teaching at Valley City State University in her home state of North Dakota, Norgaard and her husband, Jerry, moved to the Twin Cities, where she was a stay-at-home mother for her sons.
Then came real estate.
"We were active in our community, and one of the real estate agents said, 'Patty, why don't you come get your real estate license and sell for us?'" Norgaard said.
Though the idea sounded crazy at the time, Norgaard soon found herself talking with a local mortgage company that was looking for loan processors.
"I interviewed, and one said they'd train me," she said. "And I always say it was a job that was absolutely perfect for me. I get my energy from people. And it was just the perfect fit."
Working a few years in the mortgage industry as a loan officer and loan representative eventually led Norgaard to the sales and marketing field, where she worked for 15 years.
Then her husband's retirement led to the move up north.
"We always knew ... when we retired we wanted to be up north," Norgaard said. "And we'd been coming up here (to Crosslake) for over 20 years, visiting friends and stuff like that. So we were very familiar with the area."
During the first five years of living in Crosslake, Norgaard kept her job at Wells Fargo and worked from home.
"Then when I retired, I said, 'OK, now what am I going to do?'" she said. "So I started volunteering in the city."
Those volunteering efforts led Norgaard to five years on both the Economic Development Authority and the Parks and Recreation Commission. Having served as EDA president, Norgaard said her time with the committee served as a learning experience and helped her to get to know the city better.
Additionally, Norgaard was the driving force behind bringing the Minnesota Design Team to Crosslake last September, and she spearheaded the Light Up the Dam effort four years ago. She has also served on the board for the Lakes Area Music Festival for the past year, and that's one post Norgaard said she refuses to give up in light of becoming mayor.
"I'm not going to be president of EDA anymore. I'm not going to be president of Light Up the Dam anymore. But I am going to stay on the board of the Lakes Area Music Festival just because I think it's so important to the lakes area region," she said.
LAMF is close to Norgaard's heart, not only because of her interest in music, but because it brings a unique element to the outdoor-focused community.
"It's such a departure from what we think of the Brainerd lakes area - snowmobiling, golfing, fishing," Norgaard said. "There are people who have other interests other than that. And if we're going to recruit the top-notch people for any jobs that we have in this region, we are going to have to be a community that offers something for everybody."
The newly elected mayor still realizes the importance of outdoor activities in the community though, which is why she said she'll focus a lot of energy on water quality during her two-year term.
Other important issues she sees for Crosslake are road updates, an increased tax base (bringing new businesses to town), and efficiency and effectivity of the city government in general.
One of Norgaard's chief goals as mayor will be to put together a comprehensive sewer septic management plan.
"It's not only, 'What do we have at the septic plant that needs to be upgraded or expanded?'" she said. "Do we expand our sewer system? Do we not expand our sewer system? How do we manage all of the private septic systems that we have around here in an efficient way?"
Because there are so many important issues facing Crosslake, Norgaard knows learning will be important during her term.
"My philosophy, I think, in just about everything I've done is to learn as much as I can," she said. "I am going to take advantage of every opportunity there is out there to learn about the role and the responsibility of city councils."
Though there is much learning to be done, Norgaard believes she already possesses qualities that will help her in her new role.
"I think one of my strong points ... has always been the ability to bring people together, people with opposing ideas," she said.
A couple ways she hopes to draw out those opposing ideas and hear from everyone in the community is by holding a monthly coffee with the mayor event, along with regular weekly office hours at city hall.
"I'm going to be as visible to the community as I possibly can," Norgaard said. "This is not a political office; I do not have constituents. The community, all the residents, all the people who come up here and enjoy Whitefish are my constituents."
Though her new role as mayor will keep her plenty busy, Norgaard also enjoys dedicating time to her two sons and eight grandchildren.