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IN THE KNOW: It's Christmastime in the city

When writing our Christmas cards, we usually recap the major events of the year and highlight them to family and friends so that they have an idea of what our year has been like. This holiday season I would like to send this card to all of you.

Our city administrative offices remain the same, other than doing the energy saving project which got us a new heating system and will save us some dollars and give us some consistent heating, cooling and new lighting. We hired one new person, Sara Stadtherr, as our communication coordinator and she works out of City Hall. Building, planning and zoning, assessing, finance and licenses are all still handled out of City Hall. The Council worked hard this year and will continue to work, plan and budget. We have many things in front of us for 2017, strategic planning and items you will read and hear about all year long.

The police department added two new officers this year; one just in December in fact! We are getting two new squad cars the month of December as well. Look for them on the streets. They are getting the light bars on them this week. We are very proud of all our officers. They do a fantastic job each and every day!

Fire Chief Jeff Karrow and 30 volunteer firefighters meet every Monday night. They are committed to save lives and property and we are very proud of each of them and the work they continue to do along with their dedication. Equipment and training will continue for the next year.

Andy Mellgren is the store manager of Plaza and Downtown Liquor stores and responsible for seeing that our liquor stores are successful. Andy has done a great job and liquor store sales are up and remember that the profits go toward lowering your taxes.

It was a big year for the Runestone Community Center this year with a great deal of remodeling and retrofitting done and completed in December. We put in a new ammonia compressor, a new floor and of course, with our energy efficiency project: new lighting.

The Alexandria Airport continues to be active and well used. We are so fortunate to have Life Link housed here at the airport, providing us immediate emergency service.

The Public Works department works tirelessly year round, sweeping the streets and then they do paving and sidewalk programs as soon as the weather permits until fall and winter weather stop them and they get out the plows and trucks and move the snow. This department also does signs and cuts trees and does storm water management. Within this department we have now included the park department, so we have the planting and maintenance of 22 parks including the skating rinks, etc.

We lost two very important people this year — my dear friend and mentor, former Mayor Dan Ness and just this last week, Plaza Liquor store employee Marshall Kalpin. Please keep their families in your prayers.

My person to highlight in this column is known throughout the city because he is probably the friendliest and the most helpful person we have on staff. He is the perfect Christmas season person to spotlight. If you ask Bill Thoennes to do something, no matter how big or small, he will get it done for you.

He started working for the city in May of 1988 as a mechanic/park worker. Then in June of 2006 was offered the park director job when long-time, fantastic, Superintendent Gary Martin retired. In 2012, Bill became the interim Public Works coordinator until 2015 when updated job descriptions and combining Public Works changed his title to director of parks and facilities. He is currently in charge of 22 parks in the city limits, but also works with all the other department heads to help out with repairs and maintenance. He says the part he likes most about his job is that he gets to have lots of interaction with the great people in our community.

Bill wears another hat within the city as well, which is that of volunteer firefighter with Alexandria Fire Department. He got on the department in September of 1992 and has held many positions from lieutenant, captain, chief engineer, second assistant chief and is now assistant chief. He is also the current president of the Lake Region Firefighters Association and has represented the Lake Region for the past 11 years as a board member on the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association.

Bill has been married to his high school sweetheart, Melody, for 32 years and they have three adult kids, LaTorea, Brent and Courtney.

Bill said, "I truly love working for the city of Alexandria and I couldn't imagine doing this job in another city!"

Let me end by saying on behalf of our great city, "We wish you a joyous holiday season and a most prosperous and healthy New Year!"

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"In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.