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'This isn't retirement'

After 30 years, Detroit Lakes Community Education Director Mark Greenig will step down next month. An open house sendoff is set from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, March 27 at the Lincoln Education Center. (Brian Basham/Tribune)

For 30 years now, the man in charge at Detroit Lakes Community Education has been Mark Greenig.

Starting next month, however, that will change -- when Greenig steps down as its director.

"This isn't retirement, it's just a chance to do something different," says Greenig.

Not that he hasn't loved his job.

"It was a tremendous gig -- the best job in town," he says. "There had to be something there to hold my fascination for 30 years."

A native of St. Peter, Minn., Greenig holds bachelor's degrees in both environmental studies and parks and recreation (with an emphasis on resource management) from Mankato State (now Minnesota State) University in Mankato, Minn. He also holds a master's degree in community education -- which was a requirement of the job when he first became a community education director 33 years ago, in St. Peter.

After about three years there, however, Greenig and his wife, Lois, decided that they wanted to move beyond his hometown to raise their family.

"I was fortunate when a job opened up here," Greenig says. "One of the main reasons I moved here was the environment -- it truly is a beautiful area."

Greenig's passion for the environment has remained intact.

"We have a 145-acre farm north of town," he says. "About 10 years ago we took 15 acres of that land out of (farm) production and planted 9,000 trees."

Called a "wildlife packet," those trees have grown to provide an ideal hunting ground and nature area for the entire Greenig family -- which now includes two grown children, Mollie and Dustin, who both live in the Twin Cities.

"The entire farm has a stewardship plan and a foresting plan -- both to benefit wildlife," Greenig adds. "I'm committed to the environment, and this is how I can do my part."

The wildlife habitat also serves as a place for Greenig to unwind.

"I deal with people day in and day out," he says. "That's my release, the solitude of the woods. It truly is a beautiful place."

In addition to being a steward of the environment, Greenig is also proud to be an Armed Forces veteran, having served in the U.S. Army from 1971-72.

"I was stationed in Europe," he says. "I got out 90 days early to go to college -- the G.I. Bill paid my way through, all the way to a master's degree."

Of course, that didn't mean Greenig didn't have to work for his education. He believes a strong work ethic is what got him to where he is today, and he has tried to instill that belief in his children as well.

"It's ingrained in my nature to give back," he adds.

That's one of the reasons why Greenig will remain a strong supporter of Detroit Lakes Community Education long after his retirement as head of the program.

"The value it (community education) brings to this town is incredible," he says. "Our summer rec and youth baseball -- that's all at no cost. That's a commitment by two entities (the city and school district) in the community to give back to its residents. It's getting to be a thing of the past."

Greenig has also greatly enjoyed the diversity of his job, and the opportunity to open new avenues of learning to people of all ages.

"There are a number of people who started by teaching community education classes years ago, and now have their own home-based businesses," he says.

In fact, Greenig can count himself among that number, having started Greenig's Wooden Decoy Company several years ago to market some of the handcrafted wood ducks, fish decoys and duck calls that he has made.

"I'd like to expand on that," he says, noting that after he retires, he will have "more time to make inventory."

Greenig finds satisfaction not only in "making something with my own hands," but in helping others to develop similar skills by teaching classes at the Lincoln Education Center.

"I want to continue to teach educational classes," he says, adding that some of the people he's taught through the years "are so good they could teach a class themselves now. That really makes you feel good."

Just like the community education slogan says, Greenig is a strong proponent of "lifetime learning." But at least at first, he plans to step back from education and "get a little more self-centered."

"I want to be able to do what Mark wants to do," he says. "It hasn't quite sunk in yet -- I need some time to acclimate to not doing this for a while."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454