Matt LeBlanc

Morrison County native Matthew LeBlanc has returned home after retiring from the United States Army to take the position of Morrison County Administrator.

Matt LeBlanc is back, and he’s ready to make a difference.

After 21 years of active service in the United States Army, the Morrison County native returned home upon retirement. Shortly after he and his family moved into a home two miles from the homestead where he grew up between Little Falls and Pierz, the position of Morrison County administrator became available. LeBlanc applied and, on Nov. 17, the Morrison County Board of Commissioners offered him the position.

He started his new job Nov. 29.

“Ultimately, my goal coming back here to Morrison County was to find a place where I can insert myself and contribute to the community that I grew up in,” LeBlanc said.

Raised on a hog farm on County Road 43, LeBlanc attended the Little Falls Community School District. After graduation, he went to St. Cloud State University, where he earned a degree in criminal justice and was a member of the Huskies’ wrestling team for four years.

“I always like to bring up, I didn’t think it was ironic that after I went off to college, my father got rid of all the hogs,” LeBlanc said. “I do believe that they were there to help keep me focused and give me some work ethic, and I’ve been appreciative of that.”

Having joined the Minnesota National Guard in 1995 as high school student, he also joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps. (ROTC) at SCSU. When he graduated in 2000, he received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Military Police Corps.

He received his first assignment, and he and his new wife, Sarah, were off to Germany.

Almost 22 years later and after 11 moves across six states and the nation of Germany, what ended up being LeBlanc’s last assignment was at Fort Drum in New York, where he was Battalion Commander of the 91st Military Police Battalion and director of emergency services for the installation. All told, he was charged with responsibility for between 800 and 1,000 employees.

It was also during that time that the topic of retirement was first broached, as LeBlanc reached 20 years of service.

“My family and I gathered around the dining room table for supper, and I asked my wife and our two daughters, ‘Girls, do we continue with this military path?’” LeBlanc said. “My girls — the oldest is off to college and the youngest will be there, hopefully, in a couple of years. The three of them cast a vote. Their vote, by all three was, ‘Let’s go home.’ I took that input, and I supported that.”

That also started the process of deciding where they wanted to live in retirement. During his time with the Army, LeBlanc said he was fortunate to serve in some “beautiful locations” across the country. Several of them were considered, but none of them quite measured up.

“Without a doubt, what meant the most to us was to be back near family,” he said. “That’s what brings us back to Morrison County.”

LeBlanc initially took a job with ReconRobotics, Inc. When word got out that the Morrison County administrator position would be opening up in August 2021, however, he was encouraged by several people in his life to pursue it.

After reading the job description, his interest was piqued. Just weeks into his new gig, he said he feels “fortunate” for the opportunity, and even more excited to be selected “for such an awesome position.”

“Specifically, to take the talents and the skills that I’ve learned over the last 20-some years and apply those leadership traits to a position where I think I can make an impact; not just to the 330 county employees, but the 30,000 residents of Morrison County,” LeBlanc said.

Though job descriptions never quite encompass all that goes into a position, LeBlanc said what he took out of it was that the job was to synchronize all of the county’s 14 departments, each of which has its own unique set of tasks and employees with specific skill sets. He said he also spoke with a former county commissioner, who told him he would be “the face of the organization” in representing the county to the public.

Those two pieces were particularly compelling to him. He felt what he had learned as an officer in the military could be applied to the position.

Even though he has transitioned to a civilian position from the military, he said many of the aspects of the position are no different than what he did with the Army.

“Leadership is leadership,” he said. “Whether you apply it to uniformed soldiers or you apply it to civilians, the number one thing is to take care of people. Those similarities far outpace the differences.”

The challenges of organizational leadership are also the same. During his time in the military, he said he focused much of his time and energy on the human dynamic; working with the people with whom he served. That, he said, is no different working with Morrison County.

“I believe people come to you with concerns for one of two reasons,” he said. “They either think you care or they think you can do something about it. I like to think in this position I may be able to do both for most.”

In terms of the more complex problems, LeBlanc said he is proud of the fact he strives to not be the smartest person in the room. This is because he wants to rely on the people within the county’s departments, for example, who are experts in their field to help come up with solutions. He believes the best results are often found through a collaborative, team approach.

There really are only a couple differences he’s had to adjust to in transitioning back to life as a civilian.

“The number one difference is, every morning I have to pick out something to wear,” he said. “For the last 20-some years, that wardrobe was chosen for me. The second piece is, when I go out for my morning run and get my physical training in, I’m doing it by myself. I don’t have a formation out there joining me, which is just fine.”

Just weeks into his new position, LeBlanc said something he was pleasantly surprised to learn about it was the amount of collaboration involved. Aside from department heads and staff members with the county, he relishes the opportunity to work with city administrators, township representatives and stakeholders in other counties. Early on, he said he placed a great deal of importance on getting out to meet those people. He even has a goal to attend a meeting in each of the 30 townships within Morrison County in his first 90 days on the job.

He said those efforts will continue throughout his tenure as Morrison County administrator. He said he’ll be the first person to reach out to some of those people when he has questions.

“There’s very, very few things that haven’t been attempted before, or done before,” LeBlanc said. “I don’t believe that plagiarism exists in this position. As the Little Falls city administrator said, ‘No good idea goes unstolen.’”

On a personal level, he is happy to be home. He has enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time with his parents and siblings, and he was happy his family was able to get together for hunting season.

He has also taken the opportunities to catch up with people he knew growing up — friends and classmates. He was quickly reminded that Morrison County, in many ways, is one big, extended family.

“I don’t believe in making up for lost time,” LeBlanc said. “I do believe in making the most of the time you have. That part of it has been fantastic.”

He knows there are some big jobs on the horizon. Particularly, the county will soon be working to figure out how to allocate the $6.5 million it received in federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Another area of import will be assessing where the county stands and what has changed due to COVID-19. With that, it will also be essential to decide what changes should be made permanent and what areas need to go back to the way they were before.

Ultimately, he said there is no shortage of projects coming up. He wants to work together to help sustain the tempo and workload they’re able to establish.

Ultimately, however, he’s just thankful for the opportunity before him.

“I’m grateful that I’m able to insert myself back into the community — into the county — and hopefully give back as much as I’ve been able to glean as a kid who grew up here and, really, set the foundation of the person that I’ve become,” LeBlanc said. “I like to think that I went off and I learned; and I’ll continue to learn. But those tools and attributes that I was able to gain by serving in the military — which, I’m very proud to have served — I’m happy to bring those back. I’m excited that I was able to find a position where I can apply those and make the biggest impact that I can.”

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