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Board selects new superintendent

RED WING — Red Wing school district finance director Brad Johnson joked all day about waiting for the white smoke to appear — like what happens when choosing a new pope — as Red Wing's search for a new superintendent came to a close Wednesday night. It got old quickly as the process dragged on well into the night.

Red Wing's school board members, who put each finalist through a rigorous 12-hour interview process, couldn't agree during the first three straw votes.

Board vice chairman Dennis Porter finally threw his support behind Karsten Anderson, the superintendent of the Watertown-Mayer school district — he had supported Virginia Dahlstrom of Wadena-Deer Creek's school district — and the board announced its unanimous selection of Anderson at about 10 p.m.

While the selection process was lengthy, Anderson accepted the offer via telephone without hesitation.

"I really enjoy living and working in Watertown-Mayer, both professionally and personally, but Red Wing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and there's no way I could pass that up," Anderson said.


The board will have a formal vote on the selection during its Feb. 22 meeting and hopes to vote on a contract with Anderson during its March 7 meeting. Anderson is expected to start July 1, though board chairwoman Heidi Jones intends to invite him to at least one school board workshop before then.

Red Wing Superintendent Stan Slessor announced last fall that he would retire at the end of this school year. The popular public figure was hired in 2004. His current salary is $133,275.

"I feel good that we have a candidate who can follow in his footsteps," said board member Mitch Boldt, the only person on the current school board who was on the board when Slessor was hired.

Anderson was in town Tuesday for interviews, and Dahlstrom interviewed Wednesday. The process included an hour of questioning from about two dozen residents. They apparently were impressed with both candidates; no one offered a negative review on the anonymous forms they turned in.

"They both would bring great leadership to Red Wing," said Fairview Red Wing Medical Center CEO Scott Wordelman, who was among many community leaders who attended both sessions. "(The board) has both a tough choice and an easy choice. They can't make a wrong decision."

The seven-member school board spent a great deal of time discussing the strengths of each candidate. Mike Christianson went through a lengthy list of attributes and said it was virtually "a wash" between the two.

Ken LaCroix, who was hired to lead the district's search for a new superintendent, emphasized the fact that a vote for Anderson shouldn't be construed as a vote against Dahlstrom. It became a familiar refrain, particularly after three members of the board changed their mind late in the process to make the selection unanimous.

"Everybody is going to be passionate and let their voice be heard, but at the end of the day, I think everybody is going to support the majority," Boldt said.

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