Krupski retiring after decades of change for property appraisals, records and elections
Director of Olmsted County Property Records and Licensing says goal amid transitions has been to provide top-notch service.
ROCHESTER — Mark Krupski left Massachusetts and the real estate business more than three decades ago.
Landing a job on Olmsted County’s team of property appraisers shortly after he moved to Minnesota, he spent the next 32 years seeing the department change and eventually merge into the Property Records and Licenses Department he now oversees.
As his retirement nears at the end of May, he took time to answer a few questions about his career with the county and the changes he’s witnessed.
Here’s some of what he had to say:
What made you opt to get out of private real estate when you decided to move to Minnesota?
Real estate was not doing as well in 1989. We had the big savings-and-loan crisis, and I was looking for a change.
Speaking of change, you’ve seen a lot of it in more than 30 years. What’s the biggest transition you’ve seen?
One of the largest changes has been technology. When I started (as a property appraiser), we had paper and pencil and a measuring tape and we went out in the field. We would pick up any changes, sketch them – a rough one in the field and then a nice one on the permanent record card. It was paper.
Technology is phenomenal for what we’ve done since then. We have aerial photography. Not only do they do aerials, they fly at like 3,000 to 4,000 feet and take obliques from four directions, so you can walk all around a property from your desktop now.
That was a big game changer. It's been around 15 to 17 years. I can’t imagine life without it.
Now, the same work is done online, with data stored in a “cloud” for access from anywhere. What has that meant for the job?
It’s a wonderful benefit to the county, because now you have built-in disaster recovery if something happens and you are limited on what you need to have your own IT people do.
How has it changed the work for appraisers?
Now, we’ve taken it to the next level. An appraiser can go into the field with a tablet, view a house, take a picture and it automatically uploads it.
There’s no more need to bring a camera, take a picture, write down ‘picture one is this house,’ come back, download them and index them. It’s so much more efficient.
Aside from changes in appraising practices, you’ve seen departmental changes. How did that happen?
When I started there were four separate areas, called row offices. The county auditor was separate and elected. The county treasurer was separate, elected, and the recorder was separate, elected. The assessor was appointed.
The first thing that happened in the early ‘90s is the county went to the (Minnesota) Legislature and combined the auditor and treasurer as an elected position, so that operated in that fashion until about 1998.
Then shortly after that, in 1993 or 1994, they passed legislation to appoint the recorder. The recorder at the time was getting on in years and indicated they weren’t going to run. That’s always a good opportunity to go to appointment.
At some point, 1995 or some time in there, the assessor also became the appointed recorder.
In 1998, the auditor-treasurer was going to retire and they made that position appointed, so basically the duties of auditor, treasure, assessor and recorder were combined. We were doing all the work in 1999.
The Property License and Records Department launched in 2000. What was your initial role?
I was the first assistant director. My career coincided with all the changes.
The (first) director retired in January of 2006, and I applied, was interviewed and I got the position in April of 2006, so it was 16 years up to that point and 16 years after.
It must have been a challenge to be leading new areas within the county government. How did that work?
It was a learning curve, learning about the various functions and duties. My background was real estate, and I had a minor in accounting in college, so I had that background.
At first it was the recorder. They do all the recording of (official) documents.
Then, when we took on the auditor treasurer, elections became part of that, which has become huge today. We know there is so much interest in it nationwide now. I don’t think we had that much focus on it at first; I know we didn’t.
Another service we took on was passports. The post office was doing them, and they got out of that business, so we assumed those duties.
We also were doing drivers licenses, and we were even doing fish and game licenses. We were doing motor vehicle tabs and had 7% of the business, but since there were private entities doing it we decided to get out of that business line, but we still do the drivers licenses.
Are you retiring with any unmet goals?
I kind of met them all. When I became the director, it was at a time when we were looking at strategic planning. We continually do that, but at that time, our vision was "world-class customer service."
I’m of the opinion that if we get that right, treating people right, it means many things: accuracy, how you treat them. Whether people feel welcome. I think a lot of other things will fall into place.
Your replacement, Mary Blair-Hoeft, was hired in time for you to help her get settled. What advice have you given her?
There’s a lot of business knowledge I’m trying to pass to her.
I’ve been known to use this quote – it’s not my quote – but "Love their best and never fear their worst." People that come in are sometimes kind of keyed up, but most people – say 99.9% of the folks – are pretty doggone reasonable and good. They may be a little excited at times but once they understand or you are able to work through whatever their concern is, they are great to work with. It’s never phased me a bit, because they are just concerned.”
You’re stepping away just as a new election process is starting. Was the timing intentional?
Yes and no. To be honest, I wanted to stick out through 2020. I thought that was going to be big before COVID hit. It was going to be a challenge with all the rhetoric out there.
There was a lot of rhetoric about the integrity of the election, which was false, and I take exception to that, because it's not true.
I think politics crosses a line when they start undermining our institutions for political gain. It’s created a thing with the public.
I’m at that retirement age, and there are other things I’d like to do, but if I really wanted to avoid an election, I think two years ago would have been the time to go.
What will you miss most about the job?
Pretty much the people. I like people and interacting with the public. I’m ready to go, but I am going to miss it.
What are you happy to leave behind?
The negative discourse and incivility as an attack on the integrity of the elections. I feel for the people who still have to do it.
This year is still going to be big. We are still dealing with COVID, and we are still working through as a society this attack on integrity.
It’s with some people, not all. We get a lot of compliments too, from our local senators, who have made great statements about our office, but it's been a national thing that’s going on.
I can’t speak to any other state, but I think Olmsted County and the State of Minnesota do a good job with their elections.
Since you are retiring right as the filling period for county commissioners is ending, is there any chance we’ll see your name on the November ballot?
I’ve been asked, but I want to quote Lyndon Johnson here: "I will not seek." No. I am more interested right now in stepping out of the public eye and being a private citizen. That is not something I aspire to.
I talked to someone I very much respect who has been retired, and their advice was "Don’t commit to anything in the first year. Just wait and see how it feels," so that’s what I’m going to do.