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Brewster's go-to guy

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Jim Naumann is city clerk, treasurer, administrator and assessor for the city of Brewster.

BREWSTER -- When the residents of Brewster have questions about their tax statement, need clarification on their home's valuation or file a complaint about a stray cat in the neighborhood, there's just one person they need to look to -- Jim Naumann.

For years, he's been a jack-of-all-trades in this Nobles County community, carrying the titles of city clerk-treasurer, city assessor, dog catcher and, as of about 10 years ago, city administrator.

He's the go-to guy when city council members have questions, and he knows the community like the back of his hand.

In all his years, Naumann never strayed too far from his hometown.

"I grew up here," he said with a smile. "I played in the city park where I now look over -- of course, most of the equipment is completely different. The insurance company now says that (old equipment) was too dangerous. I guess we're lucky we're alive."

Naumann grew up across the street from the school and the ball park, and remembers winter days when a bunch of kids would get together to play football in the snow and have a good time.

Nowadays, he doesn't see too many kids playing outside -- he chalks it up to Nintendo, Wii and just a general decline in the younger population in Brewster.

According to the last census, 475 people called Brewster home. It's a number that has been slipping, ever slightly, over the last decade or more.

Yet, as a bedroom community to Worthington, Naumann said homes that do come up for sale in Brewster aren't on the market long. In fact, the city has an area with four open lots and the potential to creating another housing subdivision in the future.

"I think all of the communities around could use affordable housing," he said. Always a promoter of his hometown, he's quick to add, "There are a lot of benefits of living in a small town."

Close to home

Naumann enjoyed accounting and bookkeeping classes while in high school, so after two years at Worthington Community College -- and then a stint at Southwest State University in Marshall -- he returned to Brewster in 1978 with a degree in accounting and enough credits in governmental accounting to get a job in that arena.

When he couldn't find a job in his field, he went to work at Brewster Lumber Co. Inc., where his dad was the manager. In 1983, he moved into the manager's position, and stayed there for the next five years.

Meanwhile, a resignation from the Brewster City Council led then-Mayor Richard Cotter to appoint Naumann to the role. That was in about 1984.

At the time, Henry Weaver was the city clerk -- a position he'd maintained for 50 years.

"When he was looking forward to retirement, I resigned from the city council thinking I was interested in the city clerk-treasurer position," Naumann recalled.

In the fall of 1988, Naumann was selected for the city job, leaving the lumber business behind. His older brother, Mike, took his place at the lumber yard and remains there yet today. Meanwhile, Naumann will mark his 24th year with the city of Brewster this fall.

All in a day's work

When Naumann accepted the job as city clerk, it immediately came with the title of dog catcher. It also came with a request that he take classes to become the city's assessor -- another role that Weaver filled while he was the city clerk.

"I took assessor classes and have a commercial endorsement to assess income-producing properties," said Naumann.

Nobles County conducts the assessing for Brewster's major agricultural businesses -- Minnesota Soybean Processors, New Vision Cooperative and the New Vision fertilizer plant among them -- as well as the lone apartment complex in town.

"With my work in the lumber yard ... it was a natural fit to get that license," Naumann said.

His business experience helped him in other areas of city government, too. Over the years, he said he's helped dig ditches, pull electrical lines, helped with street flooding issues and was responsible for flooding the local outdoor skating rink in the winter.

"I've even done the snow plowing," said Naumann, although an incident last year, when he was filling in for the other city workers, resulted in bending the blade on a curb that was covered in snow. He laughs about it now -- and it's an ongoing joke with the city council members, who say they'd rather he not get behind the wheel of a snowplow again.

Naumann was the only full-time city worker until 2002, when Cody Finke was hired. Today, Jay Peterson is also on staff full-time. Both have been a "tremendous help" to Naumann, having taken over a lot of the street and utility work.

Finke has an electric lineman license, and also has city water and wastewater licenses. Peterson came on board with experience working for the city of Spirit Lake, Iowa, and is responsible for more of the general maintenance. He is also working to get his water and wastewater licensure.

Making progress

In the more than two decades Naumann has served as the city clerk, there have been a lot of changes and updates made in the community.

Among the most noted is the new city hall, which was completed a few years ago. The building, located on Main Street, was designed by the Brewster City Council, and the city acted as its own general contractor on the project.

"We basically started thinking about it in 2001-2002," Naumann explained. "(The council) just started setting money aside every year out of their budget. We had enough funds where we felt we could (build it) in about 2008."

By bidding out each area of construction separately, the city was able to hire most of its contractors within a 15- to 20-mile radius of Brewster. The building includes Naumann's office, the council chambers and a garage, and was completed for just under $200,000.

"(The city) had 100 percent of the money saved up so they didn't have to borrow or bond for the project," Naumann said.

Other projects done in Luverne have been a street reconstruction project in 1989-1990 that included new curb and gutter. New underground infrastructure had been completed in years prior. In addition, two community development block grants awarded to the city helped fund demolition of several old, abandoned buildings in town.

"A lot of older homes were fixed up with that money," Naumann said. Additional grants were received to build a road and expand the wastewater treatment facility when Minnesota Soybean Processors built its plant on the outskirts of town, and to construct a road to the New Vision fertilizer plant when that was built a few years ago.

The council, which includes Mayor Randy Schmitz and members Mel Tennessen, Chad Cummings, Ron Iverson and John Garmer, continue to help make Brewster a progressive community.

Family ties

Naumann grew up the fourth of six children, and is one of three who still calls Brewster home. Both of his older brothers, Mike and Steve, remained in the community, while Becky lives in Littleton, Colo., Bob is in Omaha, Neb., and Polly resides in Eagle Lake.

A year before he earned his accounting degree at Southwest State University, Naumann and his wife, Louise, were married. They raised two sons in Brewster -- Chris, who now teaches history at Jackson County Central, and Andrew, who is a police officer for the city of Waterloo, Iowa.

Naumann used to do a lot of hunting and fishing with his sons when they were growing up, but now that they've moved out of the house, he finds himself helping them fix up their homes -- another skill he learned growing up in the lumber business.

Naumann's skills as a handyman came in, well, handy -- not just at home, but with the city of Brewster as well. He's enjoyed his 24 years with the city, and is looking forward to more challenges in the years ahead.

"It's been enjoyable working for the city of Brewster," he said. "The council gave me notification that I had to give them a 10-year notice when I decided to retire. I did that when I turned 52, but my wife says I have to go until I'm 65."

Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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