Fillmore County coordinator prepares to hand over reins
PRESTON — When Karen Brown walks out the Fillmore County courthouse doors on Dec. 31, she will take it as a compliment to her 20 years of work that the county will continue to function smoothly without her.
No one is indispensable, she said. As county coordinator, she sees herself as a collaborator, a boss who tries to make it easier for others to do their jobs better.
"I am not all about power and control," she said.
In her last weeks, she said she wants to concentrate on helping her successor make a smooth transition. On Jan. 1, "I will be out of the picture, and I will go a different way," she said.
But she's not going away.
"I am a workaholic, I just am," Brown said. "I love it."
Her new workaholic habit could be mentoring others, teaching them how to help local governments run smoothly. She has had 20 years of experience, and in 2008, was given the statewide Excellence in County Management Award from the Minnesota Association of County Administrators.
Her second job will be to be a student. She said she wants to continue her lifelong quest to know more, a trait stressed by her parents. Her mom, Beverly Johnson, of rural Winona, got her GED when she was 58.
"I want to keep learning," Brown said.
She was born in Preston, has lived in small towns and rural areas all her life and now lives in rural Canton with her husband, Jim Brown.
She was working with a welfare reform program in Iowa when she heard about the opening for the Fillmore County coordinator, she said. She found the Iowa job rewarding, but didn't want to commute. She applied for the job in Preston and got it.
"I'm a small-town person, I love the rural area," she said. She could have tried to move up professionally, but that would have meant moving to a bigger city. She likes working where she can see and meet people directly affected by her work.
"With local government, you have an impact, you can have a huge impact," she said. "Local government gives you so many opportunities to make changes."
When she retires, Brown also wants to be able to have more time to be with family, and not be constantly calling home to say a meeting is running late and she won't be home when she thought she would be.
She said she knows her successor will have more challenges.
"There's a lot undone. You can't get to everything," she said.
But in looking back, she said she thinks she accomplished a lot and can walk out the door Dec. 31 knowing she helped.
Fillmore County officials are interviewing five candidates to fill Karen Brown's position as county coordinator. The decision could me made today.
• Michele Girolamo of Cresco, Iowa.
• Julie Kiehne, head of the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce.
• Bobbie Jo Vickerman, former Lanesboro city administrator and clerk.
• Joel Young, Chatfield city clerk.
• Theresa Coleman, former Spring Grove city administrator.