Brainerd city administrator announces resignation

The city of Brainerd will soon embark on the search for its fifth city administrator in five years, following Administrator Jim Thoreen's announcement Friday that he intends to resign Oct. 27.

Jim Thoreen
Jim Thoreen

The city of Brainerd will soon embark on the search for its fifth city administrator in five years, following Administrator Jim Thoreen's announcement Friday that he intends to resign Oct. 27.

Thoreen, 72, forwarded a letter of resignation to the city council, city employees and numerous others Friday, noting it would be an action item for the council's July 17 meeting. In his email, Thoreen said he wished to inform people before the "for sale" sign appeared on his Brainerd house, as he and wife Bonnie Thoreen prepare to return to their previous home, Glenwood.

"I'm at an age where after our discussion between my wife and I, we said look, we need to throttle back for the both of us, as well as me professionally," Thoreen said in a phone interview Friday. "I've got a good run in public service for 40 years. Brainerd's been very kind and gracious. I'm at a point where it's decision time. We chose our path and we're heading back to Glenwood, and there we shall be."

He said although his contract requires just a 30-day notice, he wished to give the council time to find a replacement.

"I think it's only fair that I give them as much leeway as I can, and hopefully within that 100 days or thereabouts, they'll be able to put things together," Thoreen said.


Thoreen started as Brainerd city administrator Aug. 3, 2015. He succeeded Patrick Wussow, who retired from the city administrator position about a year after being hired. Wussow was hired after Theresa Goble announced her retirement from the position in September 2013. Goble took over the post in 2012, when longtime Administrator Dan Vogt stepped down after 23 years.

Prior to coming to Brainerd, Thoreen was county coordinator in Pope County since March 2011. He was the county coordinator for Stevens County from March 2003 to May 2010. He was county administrator for Chisago County from March 1993 to March 2003. He also served as county coordinator for Clay County from February 1982 to March 1985. His first local government position was as county auditor for Beltrami County from January 1975 to February 1981.

Brainerd Mayor Ed Menk said Friday he expected Thoreen's retirement at some point, but was hoping it would be later on.

"He's been good for the city," Menk said. "He's brought a level of competence and concern and stuff, and we've got a very calm executive branch out of the city through his leadership. I look at him not only as a city employee, but a friend to the city itself. He moved into the city (and) he worked here."

Council President Dave Pritschet echoed Menk's hopes Thoreen would have stayed on longer, but knew his retirement would come. Pritschet has been on the city council for the last three rounds of city administrator interviews.

"I'm very thankful for the service he has given to the city of Brainerd and the surrounding area," Pritschet said. "I guess we'll have to start the interview process again."

Thoreen said he was proud of several things he and the city council accomplished over his time as administrator, including cleanup efforts in downtown Brainerd through the condemnation of a hazardous motel and the suspense of a rental license for a problematic landlord. Thoreen also pointed to a continuation of the paid on-call fire department, the purchase of a new fire engine and an examination of paid time off for city employees.

Menk said the job of city administrator is a tough one and he commended Thoreen for the manner with which he handled the role.


"He knew how to express himself in a manner that brought smiles on people's faces," Menk said. "He was more than just a pretty face. When there was seriousness to be taken care of, he was able to express himself and carry out his duties with due diligence. He had a great sense of what's going to happen in the future."

Thoreen said in returning to Glenwood, he intends to possibly rekindle a singing quartet he was a member of-the Kiwanis Quartet-and to continue his participation in a radio theater endeavor in Alexandria. He also said he was considering 15-20 hours per week of consulting work.

"I think Bonnie (Thoreen) would flip out if every day I'm hanging around the house," Thoreen said with a laugh. "It would not be good."

Menk refrained from offering his opinion on the characteristics he and the council would seek in a replacement candidate.

"It's a very difficult position to step into and thrive in," Menk said. "I don't want to go and put too much emphasis on too many things before we sit down and discuss it."

The city council is expected to accept Thoreen's resignation July 17.

Listen to Jim Thoreen on DispatchCast

Thoreen recently sat down with Brainerd Dispatch staff writer Spenser Bickett for an interview on the Brainerd Dispatch's podcast, DispatchCast.


Thoreen discussed his background in radio journalism, community theater and public service while sharing his philosophy on local government.

The podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Alexa, Stitcher and Podbean-just search for DispatchCast- or go to for a link at the bottom of the Dispatch webpage.

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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