by Joni Astrup
Bruce Messelt, Sherburne County administrator, said the county is experiencing a time of transitions.
He was one of several speakers at a recent regional economic development roundtable at The Links at Northfork in Ramsey hosted by the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce.
Messelt said those transitions touch on issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to county leadership.
Regarding COVID-19, he said Sherburne County Health and Human Services has had a key role in dealing with the pandemic and now is transitioning public health nurses from the forefront of the pandemic work and considering what the post-pandemic environment will look like.
Changes are also brewing in the energy sector. Xcel Energy, which has a large coal-fired plant at Sherco in Becker, plans to shut down three units there and is talking about building a large solar farm on the site.
Technology changes are on the horizon, too. Messelt said the county is changing its enterprise from being solely Microsoft-based to being partially Google-based.
The county is seeing a change in leadership as well. Sherburne County Commissioner Felix Schmiesing recently announced that he would be retiring after 20 years on the County Board.
Regarding public projects, Messelt said the County Board has put quite a few resources into expanding broadband, including partnering with the city of Elk River. He said Assistant County Administrator Dan Weber is working on broadband partnerships with townships as well.
A lot of areas are still underserved, Messelt said.
On the topic of staffing, the county is aadding an economic development specialist, and a housing specialist has been hired to work within Sherburne County Health and Human Services.
Parks are seeing some investments, too.
He said the county has been working with the city of Elk River to create capacity for a future city trail.
And the County Board is looking at the possibility of adding a major regional park to the system.
Transportation is a key focus as well, with efforts surrounding the Highway 169 and Highway 10 corridors.
The County Board has also identified the Highway 10-County Road 11 intersection as one that needs a lot of work, he said.
Meanwhile, planning continues.
The county is the throes of updating its comprehensive plan. The county’s strategic plan is being wrapped up as well, after being put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Messelt, who has been Sherburne County’s administrator for three years, said the county has a population just shy of 100,000 and budget of about $100 million. The county has 775 employees housed primarily in Elk River. There are also county facilities in Becker and Zimmerman.