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After career in East Gull Lake, Mason ready to enjoy lakes area life

“And I've actually lived and worked within about 3 to 5 miles of my house and my job for all 46 years, which is kind of amazing, to tell you the truth, in a small city like East Gull Lake," Mason said. After career in East Gull Lake, Mason ready to enjoy lakes area life

Rob Mason at city hall
Rob Mason, East Gull Lake city administrator, will officially be retired in May.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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It’s a day that people prepare for but may not be able to fully imagine when it finally arrives.

Rob Mason was repeatedly asked that question at the end of March as the hours ticked away toward his retirement as East Gull Lake city administrator. March 31 was his last official day but his retirement, following vacation days, really begins in mid May.

“But to be honest, I've yet to have it hit me that this is the last day that I'll be working in general, for any employer,” Mason said.

April has been an auspicious month for Mason who came to East Gull Lake as a 20 year old on April 20, 1976. He applied for a job at Madden’s on Gull Lake and started working at the resort May 28.

“And I've actually lived and worked within about 3 to 5 miles of my house and my job for all 46 years, which is kind of amazing to tell you the truth in a small city like East Gull Lake. So the Kavanaughs and I who are pretty close, I've talked to the Kavanaughs and they said, ‘Well, we're the only ones that could top you. We live and work at the same place every day. And we've been here since 1969. So that's pretty darn amazing.”

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So I've had a pretty good career. Most of the jobs have been really exciting and fun.
Rob Mason

The resort community has been a big part of Mason’s life. It started with a rather interesting job title on his contract at Madden’s resort as “general boy.” But it’s a job he never actually did. On his first day at the resort a desk clerk quit so he moved into that position on day one. The next year, he was an assistant manager. Mason said he was in the right place at the right time, but he also had to exhibit the skills to rise to the next roll as the door opened for his bosses to make the offer. In the fall of 1977, Mason had a year-round resort job at 22 and at a time when those jobs were hard to get.

In the winter, he worked in sales. The veteran guys, who he estimates were in their 40s at the time, took him with them to Minneapolis. While they went to a tourism conference, they took a page out of the phone book map and circled places and told him to go out for his first call and have a great day. That was his sales training, a map and cold calls. His first call was to the head of Pillsbury corporation’s meeting department. He couldn’t believe she let him in her office. Thirty years later they were still in communication. His second sales in the IDS building was to a managing director at McGladrey & Pullen and the man now lives in the same senior living building in Baxter as Mason’s father so he still sees him from time to time.

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HomeGoods would take the smaller of the two spaces in the renovated interior of the former big box store in Baxter.

At Madden’s, Mason rose to be director of sales at the resort in 1985. He said the resort wasn’t a hard experience to sell and once he was able to get people to see Madden’s and all it had to offer, eight times out of 10, he’d be able to book their convention.

Mason said he came up at a time when the resort icons were everywhere in the lakes area — Jim and Jack Madden, Jack Ruttger, Fred Boos, and Dave Gravdahl, among others in the industry amid the lakes area’s beautiful resorts.

“And to be able to meet those people and know those people. That's probably one of my big highlights,” Mason said.

He credited Sherman Kavanaugh with getting him involved with city government by way of the planning commission in the 1990s. Mason said he had no idea what the planning commission even did, but Kavanaugh told him he’d be good at it. Mason served as chair of the commission for a long time. He ran for city council twice, first losing by three votes. The second time he won. In 2014, he became city administrator. On his last day walking out the door at city hall, Mason said it was a really good career.

“As a city administrator, and giving out the building permits, it's pretty amazing to see the people that are moving up here,” Mason said. “To a lot of these people, their first experience was coming to a resort, or a conference or something like that. And all of a sudden they go ‘jeez, I really loved it when I was up there, let's consider building our house up there,’ because now they can, they can work anywhere from home.”

With a good internet connection, people can step from their home to the golf cart within minutes. “That's changed an awful lot. And I predicted this like 10 years ago, I said sooner or later, people are going to live where they want to, not where they have to. And I think that day has come.”

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One of his fondest memories was hosting an international trade conference and getting a call at Madden’s from the White House from the chief administrator for the U.S. Trade Representative. A visit was arranged and they booked the conference at Madden’s. They had representatives coming from Europe, Canada and Japan. They needed limoscenes to bring people from the airport so Mason had to rent limos from St. Cloud. They had Secret Service, U.S. Marshals, the wife of the vice president. Mason was able to take a group of the VIPs out on a pontoon ride. He said it was a heady trip for a young man, about 30 then, to sit down and talk to world leaders.

“I’ll never forget that,” he said.

He also met actor Peter Graves from “Mission Impossible” and athlete and Olympian Jesse Owens.

“So I've had a pretty good career,” he said. “Most of the jobs have been really exciting and fun.”

Now Mason said he has to figure out how to be retired. He has a list of things to do at home and family to be with.

Les Mason 1.jpg
Les Mason and his son Rob Mason pose for a photo at Northern Lakes Senior Living Center on Thursday, Aug. 27. Les, who served in the U.S. Army's 33rd Infantry Division during the closing days of World War II, recounted his time as a jailer at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo where members of the Japanese top brass were quartered during their trials for crimes against humanity. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch

“It’s been a long run. I don’t intend to go away,” Mason said, adding he intends to enjoy the area a lot more than he’s been able to in the past. That likely means getting out fishing more than three times a year. He purchased an electric bike last year and his wife just picked one up, so they plan on spending more time enjoying the trails across the area.

“So let's just say get the snow gone, and we can start enjoying some of the beautiful bike trails that I have helped work on over the years, too.”

From Rochester, Mason plans to head to southern Minnesota to trout fish with his brother. And, he said, he’s been invited out to lunch with fellow retirees who keep telling him he is really going to like this next part of his life.

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Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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