BREWSTER — Just days after he officially retired as Brewster’s city clerk, Jim Naumann was back in the office Monday morning, answering a myriad of questions from new city clerk Dave Maras.
The two worked together for the past six months, with Maras gleaning information about everything from building permits to taxation while continuing his work as the city’s outside maintenance worker.
“During the interview, he said he wouldn’t mind learning the inside stuff, too — and they’re holding him to it,” Naumann said with a laugh.
Maras, of Worthington, takes the helm in a community with a history of long-tenured city clerks. Prior to Naumann’s 32½ years in the role, his predecessor served as city clerk for 50 years.
“I told the council when I got hired, ‘Don’t expect me to work that long,’” Naumann said. Having served eight prior years on the Brewster City Council, a good relationship with its members had long been established.
It was while serving on the council that Naumann learned of the impending opening of the city clerk’s position. At the time, it was a part-time post, but Naumann, who earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Southwest State University in Marshall, was willing to do both the office and maintenance work to make it a full-time job. He performed all of the duties until 2002 or 2003, when outside maintenance workers were hired and he could devote all of his time to the clerk’s position.
With the council’s request that Naumann give them a 10-year notice of his retirement, Naumann said he did so at age 52, knowing that he was PERA-eligible to retire at 62. He’s now 65.
“We held out a few more years,” he said with a laugh.
A fall on the street a few years ago, in which Naumann injured his back, led to the decision to retire at the end of March. He’s having more pain, which has spread to his legs, and he just isn’t able to check on things as he’d like to.
During his more than three decades of city clerk work, Naumann said a lot was accomplished. A new electric feeder line was run from Worthington to Brewster, and nearly the entire town’s electric distribution line now is underground.
“The ice storm just confirmed that we needed to get that done,” he said, noting that Brewster now contracts with the city of Worthington for electrical work.
Two major businesses came to town during his tenure — Minnesota Soybean Processors and New Vision Cooperative, which included a fertilizer plant, offices, seed building and second grain terminal. The arrival of MnSP required a significant expansion of the city’s wastewater treatment pond in 2002, and Naumann said the pumps and generators at the lift station were updated in 2018.
“We’re now looking at doing another mini-expansion (to the wastewater pond), as MnSP would like to expand again to do food-grade oil,” Naumann shared.
In addition to business growth, Naumann helped lead the city through two housing rehabilitation grant programs, each of which helped to fund improvements to eight or 10 homes.
“We had businesses and houses that were vacant and not being used,” he said. “We got grants to tear some of them down.”
Hopeful for growth, the council decided to landfill all of the debris and then bring in suitable clay and soil in order to market buildable lots.
A couple of new homes have been built in the community in recent years, thanks to the benefits of the Nobles Home Initiative, which abates taxes on new construction for the first five years.
“Probably my biggest disappointment was not getting more housing built in Brewster,” Naumann said, noting there are several lots available in the one addition that was created.
On the flip side, Naumann said one of the best things that happened in Brewster during his tenure was the city’s connection to Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water in 2012.
“We used to have really tough water out here — the hardness was over 100 grains,” he said, adding that hard water was the No. 1 complaint of residents. “It was tough, but it did meet the Department of Health standards.”
Now, the water is so soft that Naumann said a lot of people shut off their water softeners.
During his 32½ years, Naumann worked with only two mayors — Richard Cotter (served from 1979-2000) and Randy Schmitz (since 2001) — and 12 different council members.
In addition to the major projects, the council purchased the town’s trailer park and built a block storm shelter for those residents, completed an addition to the fire hall and built a new city hall.
“They set money aside every year so they didn’t have to borrow any money,” Naumann said of the city hall. Before it was built, his office was a 10- by 10-foot room inside the fire hall.
Naumann said he’s enjoyed his years as city clerk.
“I grew up in town here and a lot of people I knew from when I was a kid,” he said. “A lot of them have passed, and a lot of new people I’ve got to meet.
“I had a very good council,” he added. “I enjoyed the job immensely and the community accepted me and was good back to me, too.”
Naumann’s wife, Louise, will retire at the end of May from her job in the Nobles County License Center, and they hope to spend more time with their two sons and two grandchildren. Their sons are helping with some home remodeling projects, and Naumann said Louise plans to spend more time in the garden this summer.
“My wife wanted to give me a couple months more retirement — she told me she wanted to train me in on dishes and laundry. I told her it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks,” he said with a laugh. “Back in high school I took a bachelor’s survival class where guys took Home Ec. Our pledge when we finished it was that we’d forget it all when we got married.”
In addition to serving as city clerk, Naumann logged 22 years with the Brewster Fire Department, 20 years on the city’s housing and redevelopment authority and 32 years on the planning and zoning board.
Maras, the new city clerk, resides in Worthington with his wife, Laurie, and two sons, Dillon, 16 and Lincoln, 11.