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Brainerd City Administrator candidate longtime public servant

The Brainerd City Council is holding a public interview with a current county coordinator for the open city administrator position next week. Jim Thoreen is currently the county coordinator in Pope County, where he has been since March 2011. Thor...

The Brainerd City Council is holding a public interview with a current county coordinator for the open city administrator position next week.

Jim Thoreen is currently the county coordinator in Pope County, where he has been since March 2011.

Thoreen's interview with the city council is 3 p.m. Monday, June 8 in the Brainerd City Hall conference room.

Thoreen told the Brainerd Dispatch Tuesday he was "very pleased" when he got the phone call inviting him to come to Brainerd for an interview.

"I was a bit surprised at the outcome of the process, but it is what it is," Thoreen said. "I look forward to the opportunity to meet the members of the council and staff members."

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Thoreen said he's driven through Brainerd many times over the years, and has spent time at area resorts on vacation.

Thoreen 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.

There's a bit of irony to Thoreen's career in public service, he said. He graduated from Bemidji State University and was involved in the local radio news community there.

"I loved radio work," Thoreen said. "So journalism, reporting, has been at the heart of what I want to do and I wanted to do it in the broadcast medium."

According to Thoreen's LinkedIn page, he worked in radio at KBUN in Bemidji, where he started as a part-time announcer and worked his way up to news director and talk show host.

In 1975, community members prompted him to run for county auditor in Beltrami County, Thoreen said.

"So that led to switching over into local government, and I have been deeply enthralled with it since," Thoreen said. "I'm very much proud of my record as a public servant."

As the head administrator in different counties, Thoreen said he sees himself as a steward of tax dollars who is responsible for providing services as efficiently as possible. Government isn't perfect in that goal, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't try to succeed.

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"I look at working for Brainerd as a marvelous opportunity to put my experience to work," Thoreen said.

There's a difference between city and county government, Thoreen said, and it has to do with mandates.

"(Counties) are very much mandate-driven by state laws," Thoreen said. "Cities not so much mandated by statute, but mandated by citizens who want services."

A similarity between county and city government is goals are accomplished by dedicated staff, Thoreen said.

"It is the workers on a day-to-day basis that provide these services that citizens request, either directly or through the election of certain candidates," Thoreen said.

Outside the office, Thoreen is an avid participant in community theater, and has acted since high school. During his current stint as county coordinator in Pope County, Thoreen has been active in Lakes Area Theater in Alexandria.

Getting into the mind of a character written by a playwright helps him understand how an outside observer sees the way people interact, Thoreen said.

"It's just part of my being, it helps to keep me balanced," Thoreen said. "Doing something that is part of my DNA absolutely helps to balance my life."

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When it comes to budget planning, Thoreen said he likes to take a longer look at the future than most. His staff works to compile a budget for the upcoming year, but he said they also look at a "ghost budget" for the following year.

"We make some projections based on some knowns, and reasonable projections of the unknowns," Thoreen said.

Similarly, in his personal life, Thoreen said he likes to look at three- and five-year blocks of time. When it comes to local government administration, he said it's becoming more and more rare to see an employee hold the same position for 12-18 years.

"I think that goes along with some of the generational things that are occurring in the workplace," Thoreen said.

Thoreen also ran for State Senate in District 11 in 2010 as the DFL candidate against Republican incumbent Bill Ingebrigtsen. Thoreen lost, taking home 35 percent of the vote to Ingebrigtsen's 65 percent.

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

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