End of an Era

Allan worked 35 years for the City of Wayzata — seven years as Wayzata’s first City Engineer and Director of Public Works, and then 28 years as the Wayzata City Manager.  On April 20th, 2012, his 65th birthday, Allan officially retired.  His last day of work was actually Friday the 13th — April 13th.

Love, Sue

Allan signed autographs and enjoyed the large crowd of admirers and well-wishers at the retirement celebration sponsored by the City of Wayzata on Thursday afternoon/evening, April 12th, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., complete with buffet and beverages.

The City presented him with an elaborately designed cake, replete with “replicas” of the new Wayzata Muni and the famous Wayzata Depot, also highlighting Lake Minnetonka.  Wayzata is a city on the bay, and we’ve boated on the lake for many years.  Check out the guy with fishing pole and the tennis shorts.

Our daughter Jenny and her family — husband Chris, daughter Addie and son Gunnar — surprised Allan and arrived “unexpectedly” by train  from Tioga, North Dakota.  That’s Vance and Jean Norgaard, Chris’ parents from Northfield, MN.

Our son Nick and his family — wife Jen and daughters Sophia and Mia — arrived from Brooklyn Park and their babies were very good throughout the afternoon.

My parents, Joe and Betty Claeys, drove up from Ghent with my sister Nancy (right) and her husband Steve (below).  My sister Barb (left) and her husband Doug (below) live in Prior Lake.

Doug and Steve visited with Cowboy Tom Stumpf (with the nametag).  Tom is the fellow who writes for the Victoria Gazette, sings in the St. Victoria Choir, and has nice parties at his home in Waconia.

Allan’s cousin Susan and her husband Joe Boatman live in New Brighton.  I see Deb Dudinsky in back.

Many of our Public Works (engineer) friends came to Allan’s party, but I didn’t get pictures of all of them nor of their wives.  That’s (l-r) Lowell Odland (married to Evie) of Shoreview, Dick Sobiech (married to Marilyn) of Brainerd, Steve Gatlin (married to Christine) of Coon Rapids, and Lloyd Pauly (married to Rosalie) of Chanhassen, formerly Richfield.  We’ve traveled far and wide with these characters.

Betty Ann and John Kirtland of Minnetonka honored Allan with their presence at the retirement party.  Betty Ann and John were the first couple that we came to know through the annual Public Works Conferences that are held in large cities throughout the nation.  We met for the first time at the Boston APWA Conference in 1978 and became lasting friends.

Not the three musketeers:  (L-r) Bill Berneking, an active citizen in Wayzata; Former Mayor Bob Gisvold, one of Allan’s hunting pals; and Wayzata City Assessor Dan Distel, one of Allan’s tennis pals.

Current Mayor Ken Willcox, left, was the Master of Ceremonies for the program in Allan’s honor that evening.  Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold was also part of the program’s agenda.

Some of our Victoria friends include (l-r) Sharon (and husband Gary) Lauwagie, Ruth and Jerry Hilgers, Steve (and wife Kim) Ische.  Note the Iris centerpieces in honor of Allan’s mother.

More Victoria friends include Mary Moore, left, and Julianne Wartman, right.  Hi, Cowboy Tom.

It was good to see Chuck Freiberg (married to Pam) of Victoria at the party.  Chuck sings in the St. Victoria Choir, too.  Seems we have old friends and travel friends and choir friends and Wayzata friends.  That’s Denise Leskinen, administrative assistant at Wayzata City Offices,  in back.

That’s choir friend Michelle McNallan of Chanhassen in front with her little girl Kierra.  Husband Pat didn’t get in the picture.  I see Bob Ice standing in the background with the cardigan.  Bob worked for years at the Muni, and that’s Chad on the left in the background, who is a manager at the Muni.

Christine, wife of City Attorney Bob Meller of Golden Valley, on the left.  Sherrie Engelman, health inspector who inspects restaurants and food prep areas in city establishments, on the right.

Over these past 35 years, Allan has hired all the city employees now working for Wayzata, including Gina Holman of Victoria, pictured here with husband Dave and children Victoria, Mitchel, Joey, and Sadie.  Gina is the person who coordinated the party and the food and drink, the gifts, the irises, the program, and did much of the work.  Thank you, Gina.  It was very wonderful.  Outstanding, as a matter of fact.

The party was held in the large Wayzata City Council Chambers, which is part of the City Hall and Public Library complex that was built under Allan’s guidance about 10 years ago.  His name is on the cornerstone of this building.

Former Mayor Bob Gisvold said when he got assessed for city sewer and water, he went to city offices, met Allan, ended up hunting together, and they both had weapons of equal size so they worked it out in the duck blind.  He added that Allan may have worked 35 years for the City of Wayzata, but he was on the payroll for 37 years.  Allan enjoyed Bob Gisvold as mayor.  Also, Bob is the “Boss” at Torske Klubben and invited Allan to join that club of Norwegians several years ago, which he did.

Former Mayor Barry Petit wrote a poem for the occasion entitled, “Ode to the Manhole,” with a picture of Allan in a manhole projected overhead.  It was pretty funny.

Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold listed Ten Top Things that Al Orsen will be doing in retirement.  He suggested that in retirement, Allan should now go to the Wayzata Muni first, then attend the Wayzata City Council meetings and heckle.  It made everybody laugh.

Peggy Douglas, Executive Director of the Wayzata Chamber of Commerce, said that Allan has a talent for hiring good people and then getting out of the way and letting them do their jobs.

Public Services Director Dave Dudinsky, hired by Allan back in the late ‘70’s, called him a “wonderful mentor and teacher.”  He told us that Allan always said to him, “I know your plate is full, but I’ve got one more thing.”  Then Dave presented his boss with a silver plate engraved:  “Al Orsen … 1977 … City of Wayzata … 2012 … Plate Full of Memories.” 

Said Former Congressman Jim Ramstad, “Al personifies the best in public service and has done an outstanding job for the people of Wazyata.  His record of outstanding service for 35 years is truly remarkable.”

Gina Holman, Director of Liquor Operations at the Muni, thanked Allan for helping to make the new Muni a dream come true.  Allan was also involved 35 years ago in making the old Muni a dream come true.  Gina said that the corner booth at the Muni, which overlooks Lake Street and Superior Boulevard, will be dedicated to him in his honor, and so he can keep an eye on everybody and the progress of the new Presbyterian town project which Allan has worked on these past five years to make it shovel ready.

At the end of the program, Allan was asked to say a few words.  He said that in 35 years he has attended 851 city council meetings and worked under six mayors and  27 city councilmembers.  He thanked them and all his employees for their assistance, their knowledge, and dedication, saying, “It really does take a team to run a city and we have a great team.  We were always seeking truth and equitable treatment to the taxpayers.”  Then he read a poem entitled “The Train of Life,” which ended:

The enjoyment of life is not where we have been,

It’s looking ever forward to another year and ten.

It’s searching all the byways, never should you refrain,

For if you want to live your life, you got to drive the train.”

He concluded:  “It’s been a wonderful ride.”

And that was about all that little granddaughter Sophie Orsen could take!!

The cake was as good on the inside as on the outside.

Little Kierra McNallan, daughter of our friends Pat and Michelle, asked if it wasn’t time to cut the cake since bedtime was approaching.  We posed in the corner booth that is dedicated to Allan.  Said Michelle, “I love this picture of Kierra with her ‘Grandpa Al and Grandma Sue.’  We were happy to be part of the day.  It is amazing to see how long Al did the job and how well admired he was.  Kierra had a great time.”

The program began at 6 p.m. with Mayor Ken Willcox at the podium.  He gave a synopsis of Allan’s career with the City of Wayzata, proclaimed April 20th as Allan Orsen Day throughout Wayzata (Allan’s birthday), and said that Al’s stamp is all over town.  Virtually every commercial building in Wayzata was planned and built under Allan’s supervision, as were all city buildings and state of the art infrastructure.  The P.W. building has been renamed “Al Orsen Public Works Building.”