Mounds View city administrator departing after 2-decade stint, moving to Grand Marais
Sep 16, 2017 08:58AM
The 90s were in full swing. Beanie Babies were everywhere. Mariah Carey and Celine Dion topped the music charts. And amid all the hype and hullabaloo about flip phones and “Jerry McGuire,” Jim Ericson quietly began his career in Mounds View.
Now — more than two decades later — Ericson is leaving his post as Mounds View’s city administrator, and, opening to a new chapter, he and his wife Lori are moving north.
Ericson, 54, says he decided he wanted to work in the field of public administration when he was a student at Augsburg College, where he majored in sociology and metro urban studies.
A city planning internship for the City of St. Paul presented itself to him and he later got a second, similar internship for the City of Maplewood. He simultaneously worked on earning a master’s degree in planning and public administration from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
With that degree in hand, Ericson landed a job as a city planner in Mounds View in 1996.
He was promoted to community development director in 2000, and he became the city administrator in 2008.
Ericson, who’s originally from St. Paul but lives in Northeast Minneapolis, says he can get to his office in fewer than 10 minutes. The same, however, cannot be said of his drive to Grand Marais, where he and his wife also own a home.
When asked what’s next for him, he says, “I actually don’t know yet.”
“We just want to be up on the North Shore,” he says. “We’re still relatively young, and we don’t want to wait until we’re ready to retire and are no long able to enjoy where we live as much.”
As an avid photographer who’s sold some prints and gotten some photos published here and there, Ericson says he’s excited about spending some more time shooting photos on Lake Superior.
“I don’t think that’ll be anything beyond a hobby,” he says, adding that he’s still looking for a new job.
“I’m not ready to retire. I think there’s still a lot of work left in me. Frankly, I think I would be bored not working,” he says. “I love a challenge and I love contributing to an organization, a community, a neighborhood, a nonprofit.”
“Who knows what’s next,” he adds, noting that he will at least look for a job at the city or county level.
“I will absolutely miss working for [Mounds View] and serving the community and am thankful to have worked alongside such a skilled, devoted staff and supportive City Council.”
Then and now
While Mounds View was already quite developed by the time Ericson arrived in the mid-90s, he says a lot has has changed over the years as well, with most of those changes occurring along what is now known as Mounds View Boulevard.
“In fact,” he says, “the corridor itself represents significant change” to the city.
In 1996, the road, then known as Highway 10, was controlled by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and saw as many as 44,000 vehicle trips per day, Ericson recalls, explaining Mounds View was known simply as the “Gateway to the North.”
Most of the businesses along the stretch of road catered to traffic passing through, he says, like gas stations “at almost every intersection.”
But then the opening of the new Highway 10 — the undifferentiated name of which caused some confusion — reduced thru-traffic in the suburb to fewer than 20,000 vehicle trips per day. As a result, Ericson says many of the businesses faltered and closed.
Over time, he says, community- and neighborhood-oriented businesses made their way into the corridor to serve residents, in addition to the vehicles passing through.
Ericson noted the multi-screen theater, dentist offices, senior living facilities, the animal hospital, CVS, Walgreens, BioLife Plasma, the Minnesota Institute of Public Health, community center and more.
Challenge along the way
Ericson recalls the city’s decision to close its “highly regarded” 9-hole golf course in 2005 as one of the most challenging and difficult projects that he faced during his tenure at the city.
The property was sold to Medtronic and “caused emotions to run high with vocal residents, property owners and golfers arguing their position, for and against.”
Maneuvering through the situation proved difficult, but with the projected development and “thousands of well-paying professional jobs” on the horizon, it “proved to be too overwhelming an opportunity to pass up,” Ericson says.
“The city council approved the sale and Medtronic went on to construct its largest facility in the world in Mounds View.”
According to Ericson, revenue from that sale continues to benefit today’s property owners through reduced tax levies and it left with him a lesson learned: “It’s not always easy for a city to weigh the pros and cons of a development.”
“Whether it’s a $100 million Medtronic project or a comparatively small 60-unit apartment building, what has always remained constant through the years is the elected and appointed officials’ desire to do what’s best for the community.”
All things considered, Ericson says he believes the changes the small suburb has experienced over the years have positively impacted Mounds View, “reinforcing our belief that we are indeed a great place to live, work and play.”
At its last meeting, the Mounds View City Council interviewed four candidates to fill the position of interim city administrator.
According to Ericson, it’s possible that the council will make a decision on the interim before the end of the month.
Ericson, whose last day is Sept. 8, says he estimates a new and permanent city administrator will be hired within the next several months.
“I have no doubt that there are still great things yet to happen in Mounds View. While I won’t be to help shape the progress firsthand, I remain excited for what the future holds,” he says. “Because when it’s all said and done, Mounds View will always be a part of me.”