Detroit Lakes has seen a lot of change thanks to people such as Brad Green.

Green, 64, is retiring as director of the city’s Public Works Department, a position he has held for the past 13 years.

When Green started with the city in 2007, the mile-long Detroit Lakes City Beach was suffering from a serious infestation of flowering rush, with the aquatic invasive plant giving a reedy, swamp-like appearance to large parts of the beach.

“I don’t know if you remember 2007-2008, how bad it was,” Green said. “The biggest thing in my career was the flowering rush.”

Officials with the city and the Pelican River Watershed District attacked the problem with everything they had, helping pay for research and treatment tests that eventually resulted in a successful treatment plan.

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The passage of the city food and beverage sales tax in 2011 helped pay for that research, and has allowed the city more flexibility to follow its comprehensive plan, he said.

A life in the lakes area

You might say Green has Detroit Lakes in his blood. He was born here, grew up here, and graduated from Detroit Lakes High School in 1973, before moving on to Moorhead State University and the University of Minnesota.

Before he was the city's public works director, he was operations director for Detroit Lakes Public Schools for about 17 years. And before that he worked at the family business, Green’s Plumbing, as a third-generation plumber: The Detroit Lakes business was founded in 1928.

How deep are his roots? His great-grandmother was born in 1868 at Bucks Mills. Her parents arrived there three years earlier from Olmsted County, where several dozen settlers had survived the 1862 Sioux Uprising by sheltering in his great-great grandparents' German-style stone barn, which couldn’t be burned down.

Green, who has English, German and Native ancestry, among others, loves the community, and it shows in a lot of little ways: He has been a member of the Noon Rotary Club for more than 30 years, serving as sergeant-at-arms and president, and being named Rotarian of the Year, and even International Rotarian of the Year for the Detroit Lakes District, for an ongoing project in Jamaica.

In this 2014 file photo, Detroit Lakes Public Works Director Brad Green shows off the tightly packed Street Department garage where several city plow trucks and graders are parked. (Brian Basham / Tribune)
In this 2014 file photo, Detroit Lakes Public Works Director Brad Green shows off the tightly packed Street Department garage where several city plow trucks and graders are parked. (Brian Basham / Tribune)

Pride in his work

Green is proud of the streetscaping work on Washington Avenue, and of the 20-plus miles of multipurpose trails built during his tenure, with another 24 miles of proposed trails still in the works — the fruits of that comprehensive park and trail plan, developed in 2008.

Since then, five new city parks have been developed or reconstructed: The dog park, Upstream Sucker Creek, Veterans Memorial Park, Crovisier Park and the new South Shore Park.

Not to mention six new pickleball courts, three more baseball and softball fields at Snappy Park, two disc golf courses, a gaga pit (a gentler version of dodgeball, played in an octagonal pit) and a new warming house and outdoor skating rinks at Peoples Park.

With annexation and planned development, Detroit Lakes has grown since 2007, with 17% more people and nearly 28% more acreage, Green said. There are now over 115 miles of city streets and 31 miles of sidewalk.

All the park and street improvements couldn’t have been done without supportive city council and park board members over the years, Green said.

And those parks and streets wouldn’t be in such good shape without solid, dedicated employees willing to work all hours if necessary to get the job done, he said. There are now 20 full-timers and a number of part-time and seasonal workers in the Public Works Department.

“If we have to call people in, they come. They know their job, and they do a good job,” Green said.

Retirement bound

Green has spent his share of time dealing with emergencies as they come up, and won’t miss the phone calls at all hours of the night. But he will miss the construction of the city’s new Public Works building, expected to be built next year on North Tower Road. “My successor will oversee that,” he said.

He is also excited to see the eventual West Lake Drive improvements. “People will be surprised and very pleased by what comes out of that,” he predicted. “It will be close to what (then-city engineer) Winston Larson created with that beach in the 1960s.”

Brad and Janet Green (who had a distinguished career of her own in health care) will celebrate their 40th anniversary on Feb. 23. Now that both are retired, they will be able to spend more time with their daughter Jaclyn and son Tony and their families.

Green thanked the city council, the park board “and all the citizens here. We’ve got a great town, we’ve just got to keep going,” he said. “It’s a great community and it’s only going to get better.”

Open house

A retirement open house for Brad Green is 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, at Detroit Lakes city hall, with a program at 1:30 p.m.