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Tera Guetter: She's got the whole wide watershed district in her hands

For Tera Guetter, being the administrator of the Pelican River Watershed District is more than just a job.

"I love the land, I love nature, I love being outside," she says. "It's kind of a natural (fit)."

A native of Waubun, Guetter holds a degree in geology from the University of Minnesota-Morris.

After she and husband, Randy, moved back to the Detroit Lakes area from Apple Valley in 1995, she took a job as an environmental coordinator for Mahnomen County, managing its recycling and household hazardous waste programs.

"We moved out of the Twin Cities because we wanted that small town environment to raise our family," she says. That family includes two daughters and three sons.

"We also wanted to feel like we were a part of the community," she adds. "That's really important to Randy and me."

After two years of working in Mahnomen County, Guetter took a job with the Wild Rice Watershed District. She made the drive there from Detroit Lakes for a year before the job opened up with the PRWD.

"I was pretty excited about it," she says. Not only did she not have to make the drive back and forth from Ada every day, the Pelican River Watershed District "was more focused on lakes and water quality...which I found very appealing."

Guetter was hired as the PRWD's administrator in 1997, and has been there ever since.

The PRWD is governed by a board of managers, which prioritizes which projects Guetter will tackle each year.

"My job is to carry out the goals and activities prioritized by the (PRWD) managers," Guetter says.

Those priorities are outlined in a 10-year management plan, which includes:

Monitoring of the district's lakes, rivers and other water bodies;

Enforcing stormwater runoff rules, which require that runoff from melting snow and rain off rooftops and pavement be captured and treated before being released back into the water supply;

Water quality education, which involves maintaining the district's informational website, giving presentations at meetings of area service groups as well as giving updates on PRWD activities to city council members and county commissioners;

Overseeing larger-scale projects of the PRWD, such as the current Rice Lake Wetland Nutrient Reduction Project -- which involves trying to reduce phosphorus discharge from the wetland into nearby water bodies. (Phosphorus is a fertilizer that promotes excessive growth of aquatic plants, Guetter says.)

Reducing the infestation of invasive plant species such as flowering rush in area water bodies is also part of PRWD's mission, she adds.

"There's a lot of science involved," says Guetter, noting that it's a great job for those who enjoy science, as she does.

One other part of Guetter's work involves working closely with other local units of government such as counties, cities, townships and school districts on projects that are mutually beneficial. By pooling resources, these different entities are able to accomplish more than they could individually, she explains.

"No one entity can do all things," she says. "We have to work together."

When she's not working on PRWD projects, Guetter is also heavily involved in the Detroit Lakes Morning Rotary Club, of which she has been a member since 2000.

"I love Rotary -- it's very much a part of my life," she says. "There are so many things we do for the community."

In 2007, Guetter became the club's president for a one-year term, and was also named as the club's Rotarian of the Year for 2007-08. That was the same year that the Detroit Lakes club was named as the top club for the district.

"I had quite a year," she says. "It was a lot of fun."

Guetter believes that joining a service organization such as Rotary is a great way for someone moving into a new town to get to know the people there.

"There are so many (service organizations) out there that are worthwhile, and do important services for the community," she says.

Guetter and her husband are also very active in Holy Rosary Church.

All three of their children attended Detroit Lakes High School, where youngest son Alex is now a senior. Their oldest daughter, Nicole, is a physical therapist at St. Mary's Innovis Health, while Erika is a senior at St. Scholastica in Duluth.