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Alexandria School Board member Dean Anderson reflects on three decades of service

Anderson was elected in 1989 and did not re-file during the November election.

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Alexandria School Board members share laughter and smiles at the Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, regular school board meeting. It was the last meeting for Dean Anderson, right, and Sandy Susag, left.
Contributed photo / Rick Sansted
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ALEXANDRIA — His service to the Alexandria School District began in 1989 when he was first elected to the Alexandria School Board. And on Monday, Dec. 19, 34 years later, Dean Anderson attended his last meeting. Anderson did not run for re-election during the November election.

During the District 206 Points of Pride portion of the meeting, where Superintendent Rick Sansted recognized accomplishments for the month, he applauded not only Anderson for his years of service, but also Sandy Susag, who was also attending her last meeting after serving on the board for 12 years.

Watch for more on Susag in next week’s Echo Press.

Sansted praised Anderson for his vision, creativity and professionalism while serving on the board. He said Anderson was a creative problem-solver and was an integral part of the school board. Anderson made countless contributions that helped better students’ experience within the district, Sansted said.

Both Anderson and Susag had a passion for the arts, so it was fitting that the two of them were honored during the meeting with a performance by the Alexandria Carolers.

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The Alexandria Carolers entertained everyone at the Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, Alexandria School Board meeting.
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

At the end of the meeting, Anderson gave a speech recalling some of the people he worked with and shared some special memories from the last three decades of serving as a school board member.

Here is a glimpse of what he shared. To hear his full speech, watch the livestream video of the Dec. 19 meeting on the school district’s website . On the homepage, hover over the words, “I want to” on the top, right side of the page and then click “Watch a school board meeting.”

Memorable leaders

One of the first superintendents Anderson worked with was George Cassell. He said Cassell taught him the importance of listening to all sides and that working together is important.

“It’s remarkable how much we can get done working together and not caring who gets the credit,” said Anderson.

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In this photo from 2020, Alexandria School Board Chairman, at that time, Dean Anderson, right, breaks the news to Rick Sansted that he was the board's choice for superintendent, as board members Alan Zeithamer and Angie Krebs look on.
Echo Press file photo

After Cassell, Anderson worked with Ric Dressen, who he said had a lot of moral character. Dressen was the person who started the school district’s Code of Conduct, which is still used today, he said.

Oftentimes, Anderson said he would ask Dressen, “What about this or what about that,” and he said Dressen would often reply, “I think the right thing is…”

He said Dressen answered with moral richness.

“Dressen was big on respect,” he said, recalling the time when he asked Dressen to meet him at his dental office on a Saturday to talk about something and that Dressen showed up in a suit coat, shirt and tie and said it was out of respect for Anderson as he was the board chairperson at the time.

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When Dressen announced that he was leaving the district, Anderson said he panicked and wondered what the district was going to do but then along came Terry Quist, who they promoted from within the district.

“He knew the 206 way and added to it during his time with us,” said Anderson. He added that it was board member, Jim Hafdal, who came to him with the idea to promote from within the district, which he said the board has done twice more with Julie Critz and the current superintendent, Sansted.

Brent Smith presents Superintendent Julie Critz and School Board Chair Dean Anderson with the final installment of Aagard’s $1 million gift to the Alexandria Area High School.
In this 2017 photo, Brent Smith presented then-superintendent, Julie Critz, and Dean Anderson, school board member, with the final installment of Aagard’s $1 million gift to the Alexandria Area High School.
Echo Press file photo

“Terry was one of the biggest thinkers I know,” said Anderson, adding that Quist was a great leader who started peer coaching, a mentor program and the foundation for the district.

Anderson said he learned from Quist that school boards work through consensus and that the school board is not a legislature.

Critz, he said, was a genius at learning and she was a great communicator. She brought the idea of using best practices to the district, he said.

And then came along Sansted, said Anderson, who worked through what he called some very stormy times.

“I’m glad you were there,” said Anderson. “I was really glad.”

He also told Sansted that his background in social studies came in handy and that he was glad Sansted liked democracy and let them have democracy in the school district.

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Anderson also said he loves that Sansted isn’t afraid of controversy and just dove in head first rather than avoiding it. He thanked Sansted for being a great leader for the district.

'It's been a good run'

Anderson didn’t want to single out a lot of the staff, but he thanked Trevor Peterson, business director, for handling the school’s money and told him he values him for what he has brought to the district. He said the district has a lot of depth with the employees they have and that it brings so much value to the district.

Anderson thanked all the current board members — Alan Zeithamer, Susag, Maureen Eigen, Dave Anderson, Angie Krebs and Pam Carlson. He shared thoughts about all of them.

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Alexandria School Board member Dean Anderson during a school board meeting a couple of years ago.
Echo Press file photo

He admired Zeithamer for his listening skills and told him to keep listening when he saw him at Menards, Fleet Farm or on the golf course. He said Zeithamer has been a great partner in the school board with him. Zeithamer was elected to board six years before Anderson.

As for Susag, Anderson said he doesn’t know if there is anyone else more committed to students and the district than she is. He called it “remarkable.”

He told Eigen that he was impressed with her and said that she is a quick study.

“You have a good future here,” he told Eigen.

Anderson said there isn’t anyone he knows more committed to the underserved people in the community than Dave Anderson.

“Thank you for paying attention to those people,” he said.

Krebs, said Anderson, is incredibly well-informed and her connections are so valuable to the district and the board.

He said he loved that Carlson always came up with new ideas and opinions and that they kept each other going on the board for several years. He told her she has “a good pulse on the community.”

He wished everyone well and said, ‘Good luck as you go forward with the district. It's been a good run."

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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