By Brian Ojanpa
The Free Press
NORTH MANKATO —
When Wendell Sande retired last spring as North Mankato city administrator, the City Council went looking for someone who could fit into his footwear.
The search took six months because, as council members have said repeatedly, these are big shoes they're trying to fill.
Sande called it quits at 62 after spending 31 years at North Mankato City Hall, starting as city finance director, transitioning to assistant city administrator in 1981, and rising to the top spot in 1996.
Upon his retirement, the Pipestone native reminisced that he sat in on more than 500 City Council meeting during his tenure, and now it was time to focus on family and fun, his two young granddaughters in particular.
In May, Sande told The Free Press he was proud of the city's achievements over the years in the areas of job creation, tax-base growth and a ceaseless quest for economic development.
But he said the project that probably meant the most to him personally was the rejuvenation of Spring Lake, which had become woefully shallow and fish-unfriendly due to sediment buildup.
The fruition of Sande's plan for a $100,000 fishing pier for the lake included his suggestion that it be named in honor of Jacob Thompson, a North Mankato native killed in Iraq who had fished the lake as a boy.
Sande a few days ago said that the days and weeks immediately following his retirement produced a revelation.
"You don't realize the amount of time and effort you invest in a job like city administrator until you step away from it."
And although his job with the city is over, his work with cities goes on.
"It's nice to be semi-retired," he said wryly, in reference to the consulting work he's been doing with local governments in the area. Most recently he helped Winnebago make the transition to a new city administrator.
Not that he doesn't have time for the fun stuff of retirement. There's golf, woodworking and a pet passion on four wheels.
"I have a hot rod project I'm working on -- a '41 Chevy -- that's been on the back burner for a few years."