Hildbrandt honored for 51 years of service

FARIBAULT, Minn. - Handshakes, hugs and a few tears were shared as Wally Hildebrandt was honored Friday for his years of service as a soil supervisor.

Hildbrandt honored for 51 years of service
Ruth Grewe, former MASWCD Auxiliary president, and her daughter Dr. Kathryn K. Kelly, MASWCD president, with Wally and Doris Hildebrandt. Ruth's husband, Waldemar, served on the state board with Hildebrandt.

FARIBAULT, Minn. - Handshakes, hugs and a few tears were shared as Wally Hildebrandt was honored Friday for his years of service as a soil supervisor.

Hildebrandt's tenure as a soil and water conservation supervisor in Rice County spanned five decades and included various other leadership roles. He served as the state MASWCD president for two years, was an area director for nine and was on the Hiawatha Valley Resource Conservation and Development Board for 12 years. He has worked with all six of Minnesota's state conservationists, from Herbert Flueck to Don Baloun.

He served on the Rice County Planning Commission and the Cannon River Watershed Partnership board.

One of his proudest accomplishments was creating a term limit for area directors. The four-year limit gets more people involved, he said.

He asked the former state presidents at his retirement party to stand up and be recognized, telling them he was proud of them.


The current state MASWCD president, Dr. Kathryn K. Kelly, was also in attendance along with her mother, Ruth Grewe, a former MASWCD Auxiliary president. Her late father, Waldemar Grewe, served on the state board with Hildebrandt.

Kelly learned conservation from her parents and Wally and his wife, Doris. The couples kept in touch and often traveled to national meetings together. She's known Hildebrandt for nearly 40 years.

She called him a true trooper for conservation.

Rice County Commissioner Milt Plaisance described Hildebrandt as a dedicated supervisor who said what he thought was right.

"He's just a great guy who's very dedicated," Plaisance said.

His biggest virtue is common sense, Plaisance said. He also brought a sense of history. It's important to consider history in developing regulations for the future, Plaisance said.

"Wally's been a great citizen in Rice County," he said.

Hildebrandt thanked everyone for their kind words. He chuckled at the remarks of now-retired Rice SWCD supervisor Bob Borchert, who first met Hildebrandt eight years ago. Borchert said he asked Hildebrandt when he was going to retire and he told him he didn't know, probably when hell froze over. They decided Friday's weather was pretty close.


Joking aside, Hildebrandt, 79, said it was time for him to retire. He's chaired enough meetings. Times have changed, he said, and it's time for him to step aside and let someone with new ideas come forward.

Hildebrandt asked Jim Purfeerst of Faribault if he was interested in running for the SWCD board of supervisors. Purfeerst said he was. It's important to have farmer representation on the board, he said.

Farmers are concerned about clean water and the environment, but conservation needs to work with agriculture, he said.

Purfeerst won the seat Hildebrandt held for 51 years and starts his first term this month. He plans to call on Hildebrandt for advice.

"What a job he's done," Purfeerst said, remarking on the incredible time commitment Hildebrandt gave to soil and water conservation.

Hildebrandt said that time commitment wouldn't have been possible without the support of his wife and his children.

Hildebrandt wants to spend some of the time he used to spend going to meetings writing stories about his growing up days. Stories telling people what a hay loader is and how they had to turn a cream separator by hand because they didn't have electricity.

Hildebrandt's pride in agriculture shined through during his tenure as a supervisor. He was known for his Wally's What's It? when he would bring several tools from the barn or the shed and ask people at the RC&D meeting to guess what it was. It got people talking and thinking.


As he looks back, Hildebrandt says: "I hope I've done the community some good."

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