Truman city clerk implementing changes
TRUMAN — Truman city clerk Bethanie Ekstrom has been on the job for a year now, learning much about the city and working to bring about change.
Ekstrom took over from former long-time city clerk Monte Rohman. When Ekstrom began on July 1, 2018, she trained for six months with Rohman until his retirement at the end of the year.
Ekstrom, originally from Granada, lives with her husband, Andrew, on a farm near South Branch. She has a business management degree from the University of Minnesota-Crookston. Before she took the job in Truman, Ekstrom worked as a case worker at the Salvation Army in Fairmont, and also as a county support specialist for Minnesota Valley Action Council in Fairmont.
She says the city clerk position is difficult to define simply because there are so many aspects to it.
“My official title is city administrator-clerk-treasurer. It doesn’t quite fit on a name tag,” said Ekstrom, laughing. “I joke with people that I wear a lot of hats.”
The city clerk works to help provide the public with services such as police, fire, community center, swimming pool, parks and recreation. One of the most important duties is making sure the city is financially stable.
“The thing that surprised me the most is the amount of meetings. When I was hired, it was the first and third Monday meeting. But now I have two or three meetings a week,” Ekstrom said.
The city clerk works with the members of the City Council. Ekstrom attends the two council meetings each month. But she also attends the Public Utilities Commission meetings, Truman Active Living meeting, and she joined the Truman Days committee.
“There’s lots of long days but I have a supportive husband and a supportive family and they understand,” she said.
“The biggest thing I would say I’ve been focusing on is taking the office into the 21st century. Some of the things we’ve implemented is the city Facebook page and using that as a way to get information out to citizens,” Ekstrom said.
“Internally in the office, both [city employee] Sherry [Hansen] and I have gone to Office 365, which allows me to access my email from outside of the office, which has been very beneficial when I’ve been away at conferences or even after hours if I have to respond to an email,” Ekstrom said.
During council meetings, the city now utilizes a TV that is mounted on the wall so that everyone present can follow along with any pictures, maps or charts being talked about during the meeting.
“I’ve also been working on updating the employee policies and handbooks,” said Ekstrom, noting they were last updated in the early 2000s and many laws have changed since.
She has been to a few trainings, including a Power Manager training, which is the software the office uses for accounting purposes. Hansen also attended the training. Ekstrom said she was pleasantly surprised to learn about many features of the software of which she had been unaware.
She also has been to two League of Minnesota Cities trainings. Most recently, she went to the annual conference.
“It was really beneficial for me just to hear that there are other cities going through the same issues that we’re going through, most of them being technology updates,” Ekstrom said.
Through the league, there’s an email group of area city administrators who often send each other questions and can let others know how they handle different situations.
One exciting thing Ekstrom and the council have been working on is bringing a Dollar General to Truman. Plans have been in the works for some months now, but began gaining momentum just recently. Ekstrom shared an update regarding the project.
“I’ve been in contact with the project manager for Dollar General. We are currently in the building permit process. We have a construction start date of September. That was just confirmed,” she said.
Ekstrom welcomes anyone with questions, concerns or even complaints to come into the office to speak with her. She pointed out that if she is not aware of an issue, there is nothing she can do.
“I feel like I learn something new every day. As we continue to adapt with the new technology, I think we’re going to continue to keep learning,” she said.
Ekstrom said there are a lot of legal aspects to running a city. Truman’s city attorney, Derrick Greiner, has been present at council meetings. Ekstrom says this has been helpful when hot topics come up.
Ekstrom said that so far, the job has proven to be exciting and good.
“The employees have all been wonderful to work with. The City Council has been so supportive. We have a really good council they definitely have the best interest of the citizens in mind,” she said.