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Perham city manager picked to lead Detroit Lakes

Perham City Manager Bob Louiseau will become Detroit Lakes' city administrator this fall.

After a day filled with interviews Saturday, the Detroit Lakes City Council moved to negotiate the hiring of Louiseau, scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

Aldermen, Mayor Larry Buboltz and Public Utilities Commission representative Mitch Wimmer spent hours Saturday interviewing five candidates for the position that will be left vacant when long-time city administrator Rich Grabow retires at the end of September.

"He's a known quantity," Buboltz said of Louiseau. "I think he can walk in on a Monday and take off."

During the interview process, Louiseau -- who served as community development director in Detroit Lakes from 1983-1990 -- said the first thing he'd like to do after beginning his job in Detroit Lakes is "spend a portion of the first month or two months, however long it takes, to visit with people in the community. Especially those in leadership."

He added he wants to get to know staff and learn more in-depth about the city's functions and facilities.

He defined his management and leadership style as "informal. I'll work with people in a one-on-one basis."

He has an open-door policy with staff and the community, he continued. He said he wants feedback so he can take the information back to the council and keep them informed.

"Look at my history. I've been able to accomplish what has been set out by the council. I try to be a person of my word," he said in the interview.

Louiseau has also served as associate planner for Arrowhead Regional Development Commission from 1975-1983. In Perham, his resume lists that he is responsible for eight department heads in police, fire, public works, liquor, resource recovery facility, library, finance and administration. He serves as executive director of the HRA and secretary/treasurer of the EDA. He manages 35 full-time and 20 part-time employees.

Deciding on Louiseau wasn't necessarily an easy decision for the council. After narrowing the field to two candidates, the men debated for some time, split evenly on the two candidates.

After discussions on taking Detroit Lakes to a higher level, leadership versus management skills and personal preferences, the council voted unanimously to support and offer Louiseau the position.

The city cannot legally require Louiseau to live within the city, but it is highly stressed in the offer. The city is kicking in a relocation allowance as well.

Louiseau and his family live in Perham. His son recently graduated from Detroit Lakes High School, he coaches Detroit Lakes youth hockey and his wife works for Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Detroit Lakes.

When asked if Louiseau was still interested in the position after a long day of interviewing, he replied, "I wouldn't be sitting here if I wasn't. This community is blessed with a lot of assets."

Following the announcement and job offer, Lousieau spoke with the Perham Enterprise-Bulletin.

"I hadn't been looking for anything, but this position opened up," Louiseau said. "It is one of the very few places I would have considered going.

"I've probably plagued the good people of Perham long enough," he laughed.

Louiseau has held the Perham post since 1990. He said he was "treated extremely well in Perham."

"I think most people would say the town has grown and prospered while I've been here. I don't take sole credit by any means, but I'd like to think I (played a small part)."

Among the advancements in the Perham community over the past 17 years:

n A "tremendous growth in housing," which probably wouldn't have occurred without the expansion of infrastructure and utilities to meet the housing need, said Louiseau.

n Perham Area Community Center expanded during those years, thanks not just to the city, Louiseau said, but an ambitious group of community leaders.

n The city-run natural gas system grew to serve a large geographic area, with 2,640 customers.

n Through the city's wellhead protection project, several key pieces of property were acquired to help protect the groundwater and the community's water sources.

n The city's sewer system has been put to maximum use, which has "supported the ability for our businesses to be competitive."

n Downtown revitalization projects, both the current Second Street project and the extensive improvements a decade ago, have helped sustain a vibrant downtown business district.

n Developments at County Road 78 and Highway 10 have furthered the city's long range plan of creating an "L-shaped" business corridor that brings people from the highway to the center of town.

"A lot of these things can't be accomplished in two, three or even five years. It takes eight, 10 years," Louiseau said. "And, you don't accomplish them alone. I just played a small role."

He said there isn't single project he'd take back and redo because each has been thought about and carefully approached.

"I always tried to do what was best for Perham for the long haul, not just the short term. Whether it was popular or not," he said. "I'm pretty darn proud to bring people through town and show what we have here. And I feel good about being part of the system."

A retirement party for Rich Grabow will be held Friday, Sept. 21, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in city hall council chambers. A dinner and program will follow at 6 p.m. at the Detroit Country Club. The public is invited to attend.

(Louis Hoglund, publisher-editor for Perham Enterprise Bulletin, contributed to this story.)

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