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Photo by Ryan Howard

New Scandia City Administrator Ken Cammilleri is excited to help the city focus on its goals, including expanding tourism and technology in the community.

Though he’s new to the community, Ken Cammilleri loves Scandia. The new city administrator not only went out for a job with the city; he moved to town.

“Look out that window right there,” he said, gesturing to an open frame near the ceiling of his office, filtering sunlight through pine needles down into the room. “You can see. It’s beautiful.”

Scandia actually had a round of administrator candidates before the one that yielded Cammilleri; that round ended with multiple candidates turning down employment offers. For Cammilleri, however, the timing worked out perfectly, as the former city administrator of Pine City was coming off of nine months as a parental caregiver in Milwaukee.

“I really liked working in Minnesota; particularly, this area was very appealing to me. … Scandia really stood out as an opportunity,” he said.

Cammilleri, who started the job Oct. 1, believes Scandia poses an interesting challenge, but not an impossible one: how to continue to provide modern services and promote growth without ratcheting up taxes or sacrificing the rural feel in which many residents take pride.

“The community is open to growth, but we don’t want growth that will somehow adversely affect what we find to be the community’s uniqueness today,” he said.

It’s the threading of that needle that can be complicated.

“We look for binary answers, but sometimes we don’t have a binary solution,” he said.

A good example is the city’s ongoing struggle to bring high-speed internet to town. It’s more cost effective for internet companies to bring the internet to some portions of the city, but the City Council wants, if possible, to find a solution that can bring greater connectivity to the community as a whole, without prejudice to lower population density areas.

“It is very complicated because a one-size-fits-all solution is not available for Scandia,” Cammilleri said. He said the council decision to form an Internet Action Committee was a wise one, as it should represent the concerns and opinions of both the council and the public as a whole.

One way Scandia hopes to promote economic growth is through tourism, attracting out-of-towners to historical sites like the Hay Lake School or the Gammelgarden Museum, recreational attractions like William O’Brien State Park, or the area’s burgeoning barn wedding industry. The council recently endorsed a plan by local preservation group Scandia Heritage Alliance to turn the old Water Tower Barn into a heritage and events venue, which Cammilleri said lines up well with local leaders’ vision for the city.

“That’s an exciting development that I think will enhance the community,” he said of the barn project, adding that the city has also been working with the University of Minnesota Extension on a tourism study.

“The city’s very hopeful to bring more attention and visitors to the community,” he remarked.

No matter what direction the city takes, Cammilleri views his role as the executor of the city’s vision rather than a determiner of its future. He described his take on the administrator job as a humanist one, a way to work closely with other people and get them connected to what they need. It helps, he added, that his co-workers share his service-first mentality.

“The staff here are all really just wonderful,” he said. “I can’t think of another word for it.”

Cammilleri said both the city staff and the community as a whole have welcomed him with open arms since he started the job, and he wants to reciprocate that openness. He encouraged any resident with an issue, concern or praise for the city of Scandia to get a hold of him and give feedback.

“Upset or happy, doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’d like to hear what they are thinking.”

Cammilleri can be reached at k.cammilleri@ci.scandia.mn.us or 651-433-2274.

Ryan Howard was the news editor of The Forest Lake Times from August 2014 through January 2020. These days, he writes culture pieces for The Times and works as an editor for a Minnesota board game company.

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