By Robert Williams
Julie Lammers is an easily recognizable face around Vergas, from playing a part in nearly every essential committee, as well as clerk and treasurer duties for the town.
Lammers is an Otter Tail County native, having grown up in Fergus Falls before attending Moorhead State University where she earned a degree in office administration. She married and moved to Pelican Rapids and has lived there the past 30 years, working the past 11 in Vergas.
She was the deputy clerk/treasurer in Pelican Rapids prior to taking over duties in Vergas when the clerk position opened up.
“I wanted to try something different,” she said.
Working in city administration was not a concrete plan out of college, it was more by happenstance.
“I just kind of fell into that,” said Lammers.
Although, one could conclude she was predestined for government work given her family history: her father worked for the state as a snow plow driver; her sister works for the federal government with Viking Library System and another sister also works for the state of Minnesota.
In Fergus Falls, as a student, she found she was adept at the type of work she now does and based her curriculum choices in high school and college to enhance that.
“I’ve always liked office-type things and actually took a class in high school called office administration and I really liked that so that’s what I stuck with.”Julie Lammers
Besides her clerk and treasurer duties, she is on the planning commission, event center committee, the economic development authority and housing and redevelopment authority, plus a complementary and budgetary role on the park board.
All of those duties produce their own piles of work and responsibilities.
“I never thought I would have so many piles and that’s the difference between smaller city governments compared to larger; you have a pile for every different committee,” she said.
She plays a leading role at the event center.
“I’m the only one that really has hands-on knowledge of what is presented to them,” she said.
While much of her work is in the background of the other committees, she has more of a speaker role with the event center board. She also tracks when it’s rented, who is renting it, the advertising on down to solving maintenance issues from day-to-day management of the building.
Her duties stretch well beyond her committee roles.
“I think everyone sees partials of what I do, but in the background I’m doing all the payroll and HR, day-to-day things for city and liquor store employees,” Lammers said.
Add to that all the research, communications and reports with the county, state and federal governments.
Lammers is first to acknowledge all the help she and the city get from residents willing to volunteer their time and energy to make Vergas a great place to live.
“We can’t do that without volunteers and organizations that step up and do these things,” she said. “We really only have four employees that are trying to take care of all the different facets of the city. We depend very strongly on volunteers and for people to walk by the flower garden and weed it for us and we have amazing citizens in Vergas here that do that. Even coming from Pelican, you don’t have that. Smaller towns have a great pride in their community so they help take care of any litter out there, weeding the gardens; they see a flower pot that needs watering, they water it, which is so helpful.”
Lammers is one of three original members of the EDA/HRA that was created in 2015, along with Kevin Zitzow and Vanessa Perry.
The organization was created when a land donation was offered to the city.
“There are a lot of things the city can’t do that EDA/HRA can,” she said. “Even though it’s an entity of the city it has its own fiscal rules and regulations, so by developing EDA/HRA we could do more economic and housing things and get involved for expansion.”
Much of her efforts occur prior to meetings and she is the go-to person when it comes to questions about regulations in meetings.
“EDA/HRA is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff,” she said. “It’s putting together everything for the annual meeting; talking with people who want to invest in our community. I am the person they come and talk to and work things out before it becomes public.”
Her work does not go unnoticed by her fellow committee members.
“I really want to thank Julie. That woman puts out a ton or work for every committee; it just isn’t the EDA,” EDA/HRA president Kevin Zitzow said at the group’s annual meeting Tuesday.
Lammers is there for the basics of any project, prior to going to committee in determining if a project is fiscally viable.
“Sometimes you don’t know what is going to go into building a new building or getting a new development,” she said. “They want to do their background research first. There are a lot of projects that are discussed that never actually materialize.”
There are also town-changing developments like Summers Construction Event Center and Altona Square, which are highly noticeable to current visitors to Vergas.
Bringing a store offering groceries back to town was one of the highlights of her work with EDA/HRA. That project went through a number of iterations, before the final design of eight apartments and the commercial ground level.
“Between the time that Goodman’s closed and that was built there were at least eight different people looking at doing things as well as the economic development committee was looking at taking it over. We’ve looked at anything from a parking structure underneath to a tornado shelter and all kinds of different ideas.”Julie Lammers
Altona Square and Summers Design Center are two of many highlights since Lammers began working in Vergas
“Summers fit in perfectly,” she said. “So many people want that big box store, but we have a big box community.”
Other highlights include starting the EDA/HRA, a complete remodel of the event center, changes and overturn regarding yard waste, the baseball field area turning into more of an all-around sports complex along with many hours spent bringing biking and walking trails into town.
Her work with EDA/HRA has played a pivotal role in changing the growing landscape of Vergas.
“We have a picture view of how to get businesses here, get housing here and what can we do to support that?” she said.
Her work with the planning commission examines how new construction affects the blueprint of Vergas.
“They look at it from a whole different point of view,” said Lammers.
Those views revolve around anything from the heights of buildings to parking concerns, a staple problem for the town as it grows and expands.
Keeping track of the various rules and regulations that pertain to all her committee work and the city is a full-time job in and of itself.
“It’s weird because people look at rules and they’re like, ‘all I want to do is put this building up; I don’t know why you care.’ I understand that point, but almost every rule and regulation has been in place because something has happened that has hurt someone or something,” she said. “Roads are at least 33-feet wide, because you want to make sure two cars can pass and someone can walk. You need parking spots whenever there is a business or housing unit, because we all know people are going to come to this place. Every rule we have, there is a reason for it. Plus, people like rules for other people,” she laughed.
Lammers is the essential contributor to a group of about two dozen involved in running a town of 355 people. Not a bad percentage, but there is always a need for more people to volunteer for committee work.
Each member of the committees has two to three-year term limits. The boards are restructured at the first of the year as each person can only serve so many terms before taking at least a year off.
“I would encourage people to call me,” she said. “If my phone rang five times and it was people that wanted to be on HRA or planning commission, that would be awesome. We’re making five phone calls to fill a position and it would be great for someone to volunteer.”