BIG LAKE CITY STAFF Finance Director and acting City Administrator Jessica Green and Economic Development Director Heidi Steinmetz think the people of Big Lake have a bright future.

They're in charge of 'P.R.'

Staff Writer
Jennifer Edwards
Two City of Big Lake staff members with big jobs are  Economic Development Director Heidi Steinmetz and Finance Director Jessica Green, who is also serving in the capacity of city administrator.
Both staff members are graduates of St. Cloud State University. Steinmetz, who graduated from Irondale High School, earned her bachelor of arts degree in community development in 2001.
After completing her education, Heidi went to work for the City of Elk River for six years, then moved on to Mounds View for six more years.
Green grew up in Northern Wisconsin and graduated from Lakeland Union High School. She earned her bachelor of science degree in finance, then went to work for Central Bank for three years before moving on to work for the City of Minneapolis Economic Development Dept, working in business finance. Now she makes her home in Becker Township.
Green assumed the role of City Administrator following the resignation of Todd Bodem earlier this year. She will keep both job titles until August, when the city council will review their options.
“It has been challenging,” said Green of her new duties. “It has been a bit of a learning curve for me. We are pretty lean here with no fulltime city planner.”
Steinmetz has been concentrating hard on her duties as economic development director.  She works in close conjunction with the Big Lake Economic Development Advisory Board (BLEDA), and is following their goals to secure new business investment in Big Lake, retain and assist with the expansion of existing Big Lake businesses, identifying and addressing unique challenges or opportunities to development and the  enhancement of neighborhoods.
“One of our goals is to sell all the land in the Big Lake industrial park expansion,” said Steinmetz. “There are 34 acres there. If we can get that land back on the tax roles it will also mean new jobs for the community.”
The council is expected to present a new strategic plan for the city, based on goals developed at a council retreat earlier this year. 
“As city staff, we are trained to look at what is best for the community as a whole,” Steinmetz said. “Not necessarily what works for one or two people.”
Green is working with all the city department heads on the administration side of things, taking life as it comes. One thing she says she would like residents to know is city staff are very accessible and willing to work with people. 
    Everyone Is Welcome “Everyone is welcome to attend city council meetings and workshops,” she said. “We want the process to be interactive.”
In the meantime, she and the other city staff are plugging away at trying to keep the city’s expenses down.
“Our city has a significant amount of debt,” said Green. “We have to take steps to manage it. It is going to take time. Some of the debt will be retired in the next five years. The city made a lot of improvements here so we do have nice things.”
Growth is slowly returning to the area. While new home starts are not what they were before 2008, 20 new homes were built last year and the city is on track to double that number this year.
“Our water rates will even out as more people move into the city,” Green said. “We are very cognizant of the tax rates too, although we are only responsible for a portion of that. We are very lean here already but we are always looking for more opportunities to cut back or save money.”
One of the city sponsored initiatives which is coming up fast is the Big Lake Farmers Market, which will reopen the first Wednesday in June. To date 14 vendors have signed up to be part of the market, which is held at Lakeside Park. (Shoppers don’t have to pay park admission fees to shop at the market).
“We will have traditional vendors and more arts and crafts vendors this year,” said Steinmetz. “We are working on trying to make it grow and we hope to be able to attract more vendors by having the market on Wednesday”
“One of the great things I have found about Big Lake is the number of community volunteer organizations already doing good things here,” said Green, who mentoned the food shelf, the Legacy Foundation, the Lions and the Knights of Columbus. “For a city of this size, that’s impressive.” 
“Things that happen here, like the tree lighting ceremony at Christmas, show there are good people in this community. That makes it easy for staff to work harder to make life better for them,” Green said.


NEW BIG LAKE BOUTIQUE OWNERS are Beth Koch, Shanna Romsdahl and Aadra Mielke.

FROM HOLLYHOCK FARM near Becker, Teresa Kukowski and her alpaca Francine have beautiful eyes and make beautiful garments from alpaca wool.

(L to R) Michelle Garcia and Steve Karel, two of the newest faces at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, are looking forward to the opening of the Oak Savanna Learning Center in October. (Photo by Aleah Stenberg)

VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE Big Lake’s Knowledge Bowl Team made their very first trip to state last week and came home with sixth place medals. Team members are (from the left), Jake Dickinson, Jack Flicker, Peter Wallace, Tim Poffenberger and Jacob Block. The team is coached by Teacher Angela McCormack. (Submitted photo).