Laureen Borden, longtime Crow Wing County treasurer, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
She was 75.
Borden, a Merrifield resident, served 28 years as the county treasurer and auditor/treasurer. She was remembered as a straightforward, honest and hardworking elected official who was always willing to listen and to work to help area residents.
Deborah Erickson worked with Borden for years in the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse.
"She always had the best interest of the taxpayers at the forefront of her mind," Erickson said in a telephone interview Thursday night. "She always cared about the citizens and what their plight was."
Borden would do what she could to help people. "She thought highly of all the residents and tried to do the best for them," Erickson said.
Borden was first elected as county treasurer in 1986. Erickson, Crow Wing County administrative services director, worked with Borden as a fellow department head and they both ran for the combined auditor/treasurer's office. "She put a significant portion of her life toward serving the residents of Crow Wing County," Erickson said of Borden.
Borden was honored by the Minnesota Association of County Treasurers for being an outstanding member with distinguished service to the community and county as County Treasurer of the Year in 2000.
Terry Sluss, former Crow Wing County commissioner, said Borden was always easy to work with and provided the honest information the board needed to hear.
"My thoughts go out to her family and friends," Sluss said.
Sluss said Borden was active in the Democratic party but at work her focus was strictly on what was in the best interest of the county. He described her as a quiet person but someone who always had her information backed up by data. Sluss said Borden was very supportive of her staff and was a department head who regularly stepped up to work at the office counter. She started her day before 8 a.m. and extended it after 5 p.m., with weekends added during tax collections. Borden ran a busy department, noting at one time sending out 86,000 tax statements around the world. Borden was willing to look at what her department could contribute and volunteered to take on vital records of marriage licenses, birth and death certificates and passports when those came back to the counties to handle.
"I enjoy the daily challenge of the job," Borden said, after announcing she would seek a fourth term in office.
One of the issues that did bring Borden to speak out before the commissioners was wage inequality between men and women serving as department heads at the county. She added wages for the auditor-treasurer and recorder were the lowest of other department heads in part, she thought, because they were women and because they felt they were working for the people and keeping costs down. Borden decided not to run for re-election in 2014.
During a county board meeting in 2015 when commissioners were voting to change the elected positions to appointed ones, Borden was passionate about keeping the auditor/treasurer position an elected one responsive to voters. At the time, Borden said she valued the fact she was elected and felt she was put in office by the people.
Born May 5, 1943, in Bemidji, Borden moved to the Brainerd lakes area when she was in fifth grade and graduated from Brainerd High School in 1961. She reported she always enjoyed working with figures, money and people. She attended Bemidji State University and finished her business management degree at St. Scholastica in Duluth in 1991 after her election as county treasurer.
Borden married and lived on a corn and grain farm in Merrifield and worked at H&R Block for 20 years. Borden and her husband, Jack, traveled to state fairs for a New York-based marketing organization that promoted Jeep Comanches and 4-H.
"This helped my door-knocking skills and increased my confidence," Borden said.
A self-described farm wife, Borden was married to her husband Jack for 56 years. She is survived by her son Mike and five grandchildren, her brother and sister and extended family.
Borden said that farm background meant she knew how to be frugal, which was something she took to her role in elected office as she used volunteers and temporary workers to keep costs down.
In November of 2014, Borden was on hand for her last election. At the courthouse as election results were coming that night, she reflected on the work and the people there.
"It's been a good team to work with," Borden said, adding she'd miss it-especially the people.
"It's been an interesting experience. But it's time to be home for awhile. I'm looking forward to that, too."
A memorial service for Borden is set at 11 a.m. Saturday at Halvorson-Taylor Funeral Home, 512 Eighth St., Brainerd. Visitation is 5-8 p.m. Friday at the funeral home.