(Reprinted with permission by Northland Press)
By Kate Perkins, Northland Press Correspondent
Annually for the past 15 years, Ted Strand has been behind the scenes helping to ensure that Crosslake is ready for its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Some years Strand, the director of Crosslake’s public works department, has pulled all-nighters with his staff to ensure the roads are clear of last-minute falling snow to make the celebrations a success.
Strand and his staff clear snow from parking lots and streets so that the 10,000-plus people who come to the city for the parade have a place to park. The department also places cones to prevent visitors from parking on the parade route and helps the city put its best face forward for the community’s visitors.
Year-round, Strand is responsible for keeping the city’s roads in good condition, keeping the wastewater treatment facility running properly, is the city safety officer and performs maintenance on city buildings. Strand also manages the cemetery, mows ditches and city property, removes downed trees from the road, and does a little electrical and a little plumbing. Citizens often see him driving through town from one task to the next in a silver pickup with Crosslake’s logo on the side.
“I think of myself as a jack of all trades and a master of none,” Strand said. Strand’s office phone rings to his cell phone, and it rings at all hours on all days of the week. He’s available 24-7.
In addition to being nearly always on call, there are other ways in which Strand’s professional and personal life intersect. As chief operator of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Strand is responsible for the successful operation of the plant not just on a professional level, but also on a personal level. If Strand doesn’t perform his job, he can be charged with a felony. Under Strand’s supervision, the wastewater treatment facility always meets and routinely exceeds all government standards. In fact, this year Strand is receiving an award from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for his exceptional operation of the plant.
Strand grew up all over the country, attending 13 schools before graduating high school. After high school he began studying civil engineering. He took a break from school and entered the work-a-day world at a job in Louisiana. When he was missing family, he decided he wanted to go back to school and finish a degree. He chose wastewater treatment, as it was within the realm of civil engineering, and both Strand’s father and great uncle had also done the job. He was excited to take it on.
Strand came to work for Crosslake as a foreman, and then a new position opened up with the construction of the city sewer. He took the job, and has since enjoyed a 17-year career at Crosslake. He had also worked at several other Minnesota cities, and has around 30 years in his field in total.
“I love it,” Strand said of his career. “I like the challenge. I’m very thankful, I work for a community that’s very active. The people we’ve got here are outstanding.”
This winter, Strand’s behind-the-scenes work has included plowing the roads, sometimes starting the job at 2 a.m. so that the roads are clear for school buses and the morning commute. If there’s an overnight snowstorm predicted, Strand will get up several times a night and drive the city to see how the storm is affecting the roads, which informs his decision on when to send out plows. The inside of a plow, Strand said, looks a lot like the cockpit of an airplane with so many buttons and levers. But, after a while, Strand said drivers don’t even need to look at the levers to hit the right ones.
In addition to the mechanical aspect, there’s also mother nature to contend with. Strand times when the plows go out for the most efficient removal of snow and the safest roads possible. Road temperatures will affect how the sand and salt will do their jobs, so he has to take that into account as well. He also has to balance the city’s budget with the work that needs to be done, which is a challenge in any city.
Strand and his wife, Marie, have three kids whom were all raised in Crosslake. Marie works at Crosslake Community School as a paraprofessional, and will ride with Strand in the parade as grand marshal. While he’s always in attendance for the parade, he’s usually helping out from an intersection, so he’s excited to be in the parade this year.
“I’m very honored,” Strand said of being named grand marshal. “I’m very humbled that they asked me to do it.”
The Crosslake St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 18.