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Having staff trained to handle any type of an emergency, the formation of an electronic record keeping system and the building of a new Cambridge Public Library are some of the highlights of her career as the Cambridge city administrator.
Cambridge City Administrator Lynda Woulfe will be retiring from her position effective Monday, May 3, after starting as city administrator in April 2007.
Evan Vogel, the current Cambridge assistant city administrator who was hired in October 2020, will become the new city administrator on May 4. Athanasia Lewis, who has over 10 years of experience working in the public sector, most recently for the town of Atoka, Tennessee, was hired as the new assistant city administrator and started on April 28.
Prior to coming to Cambridge, Woulfe worked for the city of Pine City, Goodhue County, the city of Red Wing and the League of Minnesota Cities.
“In total, I’ve had over 35 years of local government experience. It’s been a blessing working for the League as an adviser to cities, working for a county and working for cities, kind of seeing the gamut of local government,” Woulfe said. “I had the option to do business administration or public administration (at college) and I specifically chose public administration because that was where my heart was really at. I’m a firm believer in service and trying to make places better. Whether it’s the city, the county or an organization, my goal has always been just to leave it in a better place than when I came. Even if it’s a little tiny thing or big monumental things, (my goal has been) just to improve, improve, improve.”
Woulfe will miss the staff she’s worked with over the years.
“This is the best ensemble of people I have ever been given the gift of working with. They truly have public service at the core of their heart and for the reason that they want to do their job. We’ve assembled a great team and we’ve kept that as our underlying tenet of how people are going to fit in organizationally, do they have that passion, do they want to serve,” Woulfe said. “Our firefighters, our police officers, they are so dedicated to people’s safety and quality of life and just community. It is absolutely a gift. And the community should understand that these people truly want to be here and they want to do the best job they can for the community.”
Woulfe decided about a year ago she was going to retire in May so the city put in a transition plan by hiring Vogel as the assistant city administrator, with plans for him to become the new city administrator.
“It was really important that Cambridge not lose any traction on projects. We’ve been working on Highway 95 since 2007 when I first started,” Woulfe said. “Congressman (Pete) Stauber has now taken that up and he’s trying to get us funded in this bill. That’s been 14 years that we’ve been working on this one high priority project, but again, it’s an $18 million project and dimes don’t just drop from the sky.
“We wanted to make sure the person coming in understood the project priorities, the councils’ long-range plan and where we wanted to go, so there would be good continuity of service for the residents and businesses; that was really our major goal,” Woulfe added.
During her retirement Woulfe looks forward to traveling with her husband, Tony, and when the pandemic settles down, she is looking to join the Peace Corps to work on building community development. She is also considering getting her substitute teaching license and becoming a substitute teacher. She also looks forward to spending time with her two adult sons, Mike and Will.
The current state of politics factored into Woulfe’s decision to retire.
“People used to be able to agree to disagree and be polite about it,” Woulfe said. “So over the last year, I’ve had more people call me and yell at me and swear at me and not want to listen to the underlying explanation for why, and so I thought, you know, I’m really not enjoying it right now. I could have retired two years ago under the Rule of 90, but I thought I’m not done yet. I really enjoy my job. I super enjoy the people, whether it’s city staff or residents or businesses. There are so many wonderful, positive people in our community that really want to make a positive, great difference and keep that small-town community feel. It just struck me, it’s time.
“It used to be we could talk about, well, here’s the reason why. You may not agree with it, but I hope I can get you to understand it. And now there’s, ‘I don’t even want to understand. This is the way I want it. I want it that way. Make it that way.’ And I can’t do it. And people are losing a sense of what it means to live in a community. A community, a city, is a compilation of individuals who agree to live together by a common sense of rules for the betterment of everybody. Not every rule everyone is going to like, but hopefully they get put in for a purpose,” Woulfe added.
Leaving the city with wonderful city staff and Vogel as city administrator is a reason Woulfe feels comfortable retiring.
“Evan had a chance to work through an election cycle, which only comes every two years but is still a huge part of the job as city administrator, since we do not have a clerk, so the administrator does all the clerk functions,” Woulfe said. “And he (Evan) was able to sit through the end of a budget cycle before having to start a new budget cycle because cities are on calendar years. So it really gave him an edge up and the community an edge on maintaining continuity so we didn’t waste time and direction getting somebody up to speed.
“I think Evan is doing wonderful. The most important thing that I felt was important to pass on is that you have to have that sense of community. You have to know who you’re working for and what the community desires. And then, how can the council and the community work together to achieve that as a goal. And sometimes the community wants things that we can’t afford, but still if you can try to find ways to budget, to work for, to save over time. The library was 50 years old, and so now we’re actually able to replace that asset. Through the blessing of the local option sales tax we can have that new amenity. Plus the people that are not just Cambridge taxpayers are helping us pay for it because the township people use the library, people from out of the area use the library, but they also shop here, so they can help us support it,” Woulfe added.
Highlights of career
A focus on emergency preparednesses was one of Woulfe’s goals when she started.
“Our staff is now really well trained and equipped to deal with any type of emergency that comes our way. Whether it’s train derailment, tornado, high winds, chemicals, I really put a lot of emphasis on being prepared so we can help the community rebound faster,” Woulfe said. “The less time you spend digging out from something means the sooner that life can get back to normal. I’m personally really proud of where we have come from that perspective.”
Shifting the city from a paper record keeping system to an electronic record keeping system is something Woulfe is proud to have accomplished.
“We have a great and amazing record retentions system,” Woulfe said. “So 10 years from now, if people are wondering what did they make that decision for, they can just go to the computer, click on the council directory, see all the staff reports and see everything about why those decisions were made so they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. Having an electronic record keeping system has been really cool.”
Having a local option sale tax passed in the city to allow for the construction of new Cambridge Public Library, and the working partnerships that came with it, is another one of Woulfe’s achievements.
“It’s never one person. It is the community, the businesses coming and the people that are interested coming together to create a positive force to make change,” Woulfe said. “They did that and we’re able to have this new, beautiful library because of it.”
Adding housing to the city is another highlight for Woulfe during her time in Cambridge.
“Having a wide range of housing available in Cambridge. We’re not just the single-family homes. We have townhomes, we have apartments, we have single-family homes, we have executive homes. Seeing how things are going to change, we’re more a retail-based environment. Retail people don’t make really livable wage jobs, so how are we going to be able to address that. So kind of recognizing that you need housing for all stages of life,” Woulfe said. “And participating in the ACT on Alzheimer’s and the dementia-friendly community has been a highlight for me to help all our seniors be able to age gracefully and where they want to.”
What Lynda Woulfe has meant to the community
“Lynda has brought innovative ideas along with practical understanding of our community. She did her job so well, that the city of Cambridge was able to soar under her leadership.”
~ Mayor Jim Godfrey
“I have been with the city of Cambridge since late October of 2020. In that time, I have experienced a learning curve like never before as I began to learn the history, and inner workings of the city and its citizens. No one has been more welcoming or helpful to me than Lynda. She has taught me more in the past six months than I learned in the past two or more years, and it has been an absolute blessing to work as her assistant city administrator. Lynda brings an energy to her day that you can only understand if you meet her, or have worked with her; she loves her job, and she is very good at it. Whether she is working to support the city’s emergency response personnel, working a 21-hour day running elections, encouraging businesses, or advising the City Council, she carries herself with the utmost integrity and professionalism. She cares about her employees, the citizens of this city, and she brings an understanding of the job that is unrivaled. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to get to work with her. I wish her all the best in retirement, and I hope she is still willing to take my calls for those (numerous) times when I have questions.”
~ Assistant City Administrator Evan Vogel, who will assume the city administrator position on May 4.
“Having Lynda Wolfe as our city administrator is like building your foundation on a rock. She is ever steady, a wealth of wisdom, knows where to find answers when she doesn’t have them and has been an amazing leader. She knows how to navigate the ship while the council is taking the wheel. When the waters are choppy, she has guided us with a combination of grace and strength. Her positive impact on the city will be evident for endless years to come.”
~ City Council Member Lisa Iverson
“The first time I met Lynda was during a meeting she had scheduled with me. The meeting was intended to be an ‘introductions/what is this person all about’ meeting. Lynda started out the meeting by throwing out facts about pipe material used for water and sewer main lines. Thank goodness I knew more about the subject than she did or I would have heard about it for the next 15 years ... jokingly of course. Lynda impressed me that day and has continued to do so every day since that first meeting. The depth of her knowledge in so many different aspects of city operations is very uncommon for someone in her position, that level of knowledge is not possessed by many. Lynda has proven to know more than me about numerous things in the years I have known her, and reminds me frequently ... jokingly of course. She will be missed.”
~ Public Works/Utilities Director Todd Schwab
“Lynda Woulfe did many good things for the city of Cambridge during her tenure. From my perspective, most notably was the improvement of safety training for Cambridge staff and the creative redevelopment of a property, which is now the beautiful Cambridge Library.”
~ Director of Finance Caroline Moe
“I would just like to say that I am going to miss working with/for Lynda and tell her that she is going to be missed very much, but her retirement is well-deserved and I wish her happiness and nothing but the best.”
~ Chief of Police Todd Schuster
“Being on city council I enjoyed working with her on policy development, community growth and in general seeing Cambridge move forward. I always appreciated how well Lynda and I worked together on joint projects as it pertains to public safety matters that involved the Sheriff’s Office, Cambridge Police and the city of Cambridge. We have always collaborated and that makes this a great community to live in. I appreciate the commitment Lynda had for our city and making it a better place for all of its businesses and residents.”
~ Former city council member and current Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk
“I think of Lynda as a compass for the city. We as a council, and myself especially, have had a tendency to drift off the course she was tasked to keep us on. As our local government compass, she was very good at reminding us where we wanted to lead the city. She did this using her vast knowledge of local governance and her ability to bring people together to meet common goals.”
~ City Council Member Bob Shogren
“I have had the pleasure of working with Lynda Wolfe in a variety of roles over the years. Lynda has been a tireless champion of parks and recreation and worked very hard to make the bike trail happen. She also was instrumental in upgrading and improving the park system in Cambridge. When I was elected to the council in 2020, Lynda warmly greeted me and reminded me that Cambridge is a great place! She also reminded me that we have a great downtown, an awesome Chamber of Commerce, and many great people working and living in our city! Lynda was always willing to address issues and make things happen to improve Cambridge! Thank you, Lynda!”
~ City Council Member Mark Ziebarth
“Lynda will be greatly missed for her dedication to Cambridge and her amazing leadership skills. She turned this city around and was a top notch city administrator. I wish her the best of luck in her retirement and that she gets plenty of relaxation. Thank you for all of your hard work, Lynda!”
~ City Council Member Kersten Barfknecht-Conley