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Murray County's 'expert on ditches' is remembered

Bill Sauer (left) is presented with a flag by then- Murray County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Moline at his retirement. The flag was flown Dec. 7, 2012, over the U.S. Capitol by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, in honor of Sauer's 20 years of service to Murray County and his military service during the Korean War.

FULDA -- After 20 years serving the people of Murray County, Bill Sauer will be remembered as man led with a fair hand, calm demeanor and a quick smile.

Sauer, born Nov. 26, 1932, in Bondin Township, died Monday at Sanford Hospital, Sioux Falls, S.D.

He started working for Murray County in 1986 as the zoning administrator. In 1992, he was elected as a county commissioner for Murray County District 5, representing the city of Fulda and Bondin and Belfast townships.

"He liked to help people," said Bruce Sauer, Bill's son. "It was a joy for him to (be commissioner). He really liked the opportunity to help and to meet other people."

The experience Bill Sauer gained during his time as zoning administrator served him well, and he was known as an expert on Murray County's ditches.

"Ditches are a huge thing. It sounds strange, but there are a lot of them here," said Christy Riley, who works in Murray County's community relations. "He knew the history of each and how long it had been there."

Murray County Chairman Gerald Magnus also praised Sauer's experience and knowledge regarding the ditches and drainage laws.

"He was a very good commissioner," Magnus said. "He knew his ditches real well and had good experience working with them."

Bill's knowledge and leadership as a commissioner became well known among other counties, and Bruce said that his father would often get calls from other county commissioners looking for advice.

"At his retirement, we ran into several of the commissioners from different areas, Bruce Sauer said. "It was nice to hear them say that it was absolutely great to have somebody with his experience -- that they looked to him a lot for guidance when it came to certain issues."

During his time as a Murray County commissioner, Sauer and the other commissioners achieved plenty, including the development of the Lake Shetek sewage system.

"I know he butted heads with people a couple times, because he was one of the swing votes," the younger Sauer said.

Sauer vetoed the project the first time it came up for a vote because of its cost. Eventually the county found it was able to complete the work for a lot less, and it also received a grant. When the project came up for a second vote, Sauer helped pass the motion approving the project.

Sauer was proud of the Murray County Medical Center and the progress that was being made with the addition, his son said.

"He wasn't one to brag about his accomplishments, but he really wanted to see the hospital grow from where it was to where it's going," Bruce Sauer added.

Bill was known for helping new employees at the Murray County Government Center learn the ropes.

"He was a commissioner when I started, and he took me under the wing and gave me advice," Riley said. "He helped me get to know the county, and he's done that for a lot of the staff here."

Employees of the county all respected Sauer, his son said.

"When you went up to the office, they would do anything for Dad," he said. "It didn't matter. They would stop what they were doing and just do it. I can't believe how accommodating all those people are up there."

During his time as a commissioner, Sauer also served on the Murray County Fair Board and used his interest in horses and old tractors to the advantage of the county.

"He was instrumental every year we had the antique tractor show," Magnus said. "He got all of those people lined up and went to auctions around the country for old tractors."

Fair Board President Stan Larson, who was on the fair board with Sauer for 10 years, said that in addition to coordinating the tractor show, Sauer played a large role in other historic activities at the fair.

"He worked and lined up all the horses and threshing machines and threshing sites," Larson said. "He took care of all of that."

In addition to his work with Murray County, Sauer was active in numerous organizations in Fulda as well as Murray and Nobles counties.

"He really wanted to see our part of the county thrive, draw in employment and get infrastructure improved," Bruce said.

Sauer completed his work with Murray County in January and had only three months of retirement.

"He always said, 'Words never spoken are never eaten,' and he lived that well, and he was always able to quickly defuse a bad situation," Bruce said.

Magnus, Riley and Larson all said they enjoyed working with Sauer, and that he would be missed.

"It was a pleasure working with Bill and an honor," Larson said.

Daily Globe Reporter

Alyson Buschena may be

reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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