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Tangen takes school district job

After 12 years with Becker County, former auditor-treasurer Ryan Tangen has taken a job as business manager with the Detroit Lakes School District. DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes

After 12 years with Becker County, most of them as an elected official, Ryan Tangen has spent a lot of time knocking on doors.

“You wouldn’t believe how many houses there are in Wolf Lake,” he joked, referring to the time he spent doing door-to-door campaigning once every four years, at houses throughout Becker County.

And while he won’t miss the uncertainty of not knowing whether he would still have a job on the morning after Election Day, Tangen also says he wouldn’t trade those years he spent getting to know his constituents on the campaign trail, and his colleagues in the county courthouse.

“Becker County is a great place to work,” he said.

First as a treasurer, appointed to the interim position by the county board in 2001, then being elected to that position and subsequently appointed to fill the auditor’s chair after Keith Brekken’s retirement, and finally, the combination of the two offices to officially become the county’s first auditor-treasurer in 2007, Tangen has seen a lot of changes in his workload.

But until this past Tuesday, one thing that has remained a constant was his place of employment at the county courthouse.

This week, Tangen’s new professional home officially became the administration building of the Detroit Lakes School District, where he took over as business manager on March 3.

For a weeklong transitional period, he continued to serve as the county’s auditor-treasurer as well. In fact, his name will still appear at the top of the county’s 2014 tax statements (a cost and time-saving measure, Tangen said).

Now, however, the transition is complete, and Tangen’s duties with the county will be filled by two deputized employees until an interim auditor-treasurer is appointed by the board.

(Further changes may also be on the way. While the auditor-treasurer’s position will be up for election in November, the county board is currently seeking legislative authorization to merge the auditor-treasurer and recorder’s offices, and to make the combined position an appointed rather than an elected one.)

While Tangen is proud of his accomplishments with the county, he is also quick to point out that nearly all of them were collaborative efforts on some level.

For instance, when Tangen started with the county, filing a deed for the purchase or transfer of property used to involve multiple visits to the recorder, treasurer and auditor before the process was complete.

But through the collaboration of all three offices, constituents who come to the county courthouse to file a deed can now do so through a “one-stop” visit to the recorder’s office.

Updating the county’s budgeting and election processes also involved working with multiple county departments and state agencies, he added.

Tangen also cites the development of the Mountain View Recreation Area as a project he enjoyed being involved in. “It was fun to watch that come together,” he said.

But after 12 years, he added, the fresh challenge of running the Detroit Lakes School District’s business office was one he just couldn’t pass up.

“From a family and professional development standpoint, it was just a great opportunity,” he said.

Tangen admitted that one thing about his new position that particularly appealed to him was the chance to spend more time with his family, which includes wife Rory and children Caleb, 12, Sarah, 10 and Isaac, 6.

Because the school district’s annual budget is roughly the same size as the county’s, Tangen also felt he would have little difficulty coping with the transition on that front.

But the first hurdle ahead, he added, will be dealing with the school district’s current facility issues — specifically, the lack of adequate space to house all of its elementary students.

After a failed building bond referendum last November, the district is now faced with the challenge of coming up with a solution that will be more palatable to its residents, from both a geographical and a financial standpoint.

(Besides the $59 million price tag, one of the chief sticking points of the proposal listed by residents at a hearing held earlier this winter was the relocation of one of the district’s elementary buildings from a residential neighborhood to a location near the city’s industrial park.)

“It isn’t just about putting together another referendum proposal, it’s about looking at what we have and finding creative ways to approach the problem,” Tangen said. “We’re pretty much starting over and trying to come with a viable option for providing education for our children.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter @VickiLGerdes.

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