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Commissioner Don Linssen retires after 10 years with the Nobles County Board

“Ten years went very fast for me, and there were ups and downs that go with it, but if you ask if I would do it all over again, yes, I would."

Commissioner Don Linssen, who is retiring after 10 years on the Nobles County Board of Commissioners, served as chairman for the last time during a work session Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022.
Commissioner Don Linssen, who is retiring after 10 years on the Nobles County Board of Commissioners, served as chairman for the last time during a work session Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022.
Kari Lucin / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — After 10 years, Don Linssen has retired from his position on the Nobles County Board of Commissioners, where he represented the county’s Fifth District.

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“When I got elected, I said ‘I’m a firm believer in not being there forever,’” Linssen said. “There should be a select number of years and you (leave office), because there’s always somebody else that can do as good of a job as you did. Term limits, to me, are a good thing.”

Prior to serving on the county board, Linssen was in law enforcement for 35 years, including the 15 years he spent as chief of police.

He’d always had an interest in serving on the county board and the position was going to be vacant, so he decided to run for office. Because it was a redistricting year, he served one two-year term, and filed for office twice more after that, retaining his seat both times.

His experience as police chief, working within city government, helped inform his time as a Nobles County commissioner.

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“County government’s just a little bit bigger, and you’re aware of all the different departments (as a commissioner),” Linssen said. “We’ve got some very good people in a lot of departments, so it makes life a lot easier for a commissioner.

During his time on the board — last year he served as its chairman — Linssen saw many changes in Nobles County, including significant growth in the minority population, not just in Worthington but in outlying towns as well.

County government has changed a bit too.

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“When I got on the board, I think there was a morale issue with a lot of employees… people were pretty timid about being around commissioners, or anybody in administration,” Linssen recalled. “That was kind of a focus with myself and several of the other commissioners, to bolster morale, to let them know they are needed, they are wanted, that they are a vital part of making the county run.”

He said he felt the county had come a long way from where it was 10 years ago, with regard to employee morale.

“My theory has always been: you don’t micromanage departments. You set policy,” Linssen explained.

In his view, the county board ensures that bills are paid, that the county budget is fair and that some day-to-day things such as road projects get done, but commissioners shouldn’t micromanage personnel or individual departments.

He said the board’s biggest accomplishments during his tenure were completing roadwork pushed back by prior boards, balancing the books and bringing broadband to the rural parts of Nobles County, enabling kids to do schoolwork and grown-ups to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Commissioner Don Linssen serves as chairman of the Nobles County Board of Commissioners during a work session on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022.
Commissioner Don Linssen serves as chairman of the Nobles County Board of Commissioners during a work session on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

“There’s many farms, and that’s big business. Without having a good connection — broadband — I think we’re going backwards,” he said. “We invested quite a bit of money into that, and there’s more now on the table to do more things. I think that was a bright spot.”

Places that don’t invest in broadband lose people to other places that do have good internet connections, Linssen said.

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Allowing people to work from home has been somewhat challenging to navigate, and the county remains in the early stages of working out that process, he said. As a county in close proximity to two other states with different laws governing workplaces, Nobles County must navigate its way through those laws. In addition, the county must be aware of information security, keeping its data safe while allowing workers to access systems they need for their work.

Linssen anticipates hiring will continue to be a challenge, not just for Nobles County but for all counties, as some of the positions are fairly technical. Labor unions and enticements like hiring bonuses also complicate the issue.

His favorite part about serving on the board was seeing and talking to county employees.

“I think the whole atmosphere of the place is better, and I just enjoy that part of it, and I enjoy people — I’ve been working with people my whole life,” he said.

Many people don’t realize how much time serving as a commissioner requires.

“I had a gentleman, shortly after I got on (the board), came up to me and said ‘You make pretty doggone good money for just two meetings a month,’” Linssen recalled.

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The man did not realize that while commissioners do typically attend two regular meetings and one work session a month, they have a number of other duties as well. Linssen was on 24 other committees and traveled as far as Redwood Falls, Marshall and Slayton for some of those meetings.

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In addition, there’s a significant amount of reading and homework commissioners must do on complex subjects, such as century-old ditch systems that drain valuable farmland.

“The first year that you’re on, that’s about all you get done, is trying to get caught up on the committees you’re on that you’re supposed to represent (the county for),” Linssen said.

Commissioners must represent their own districts, but they must also represent the county as a whole, as board decisions impact everyone in the county.

“You have to be fair to everybody else in the county. I think as a board, we’ve worked very hard at doing that and not throwing any area under the bus,” Linssen said. “It’s a complicated job, so if you’re going to file for it, you might want to think about all that goes along with it — because there’s more than just a couple of meetings a month.”

He advised his successor to spend the first year listening, paying attention to everything, taking notes and using the internet to get informed.

“Ten years went very fast for me, and there were ups and downs that go with it, but if you ask if I would do it all over again, yes, I would,” Linssen said. “It was a very good 10 years.”

He praised his fellow commissioners, county administration and county workers.

“I’m very thankful for the 10 years I had. It was a good 10 years, a good career, and I’m leaving it in good hands, so I’m not concerned,” he added.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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