Sensing the time was right to embark on a new adventure, John Hilgers, who has served the city of Waconia as Planning Director since 1988, is leaving Waconia to take a position in Colorado.
The Waconia City Council respectfully accepted Hilgers’ voluntary resignation during its meeting on May 6.
Hilgers’ began his career with the city as an intern before ascending to Planning Director in 1988. As noted during the meeting, Hilgers has been an instrumental part in helping guide the city through unprecedented growth in population, geography and complexity for the past quarter century.
Hilgers accepted a position in the city and county of Broomfield, Colo. His last day in Waconia was May 7.
“My wife and I had wanted to try living in another part of the country but as we had children and they entered school, it would have been tough to uproot them,” Hilgers explained. “We chose to wait until the kids were grown and on their way to college to pursue a move. Our youngest daughter will be graduating high school this spring and we believed the timing was right to pursue a relocation.”
Hilgers said Colorado was one of those places that appealed to his family.
“Milder winters and a sunnier climate played a part in the decision, along with the ability to engage in the outdoor activities that Colorado has to offer,” he said.
In terms of leaving Waconia, Hilgers said he enjoyed working with the city’s talented staff.
“They are committed to making Waconia a great place to live and work,” he said. “I also enjoyed working with the city council, planning commission and various boards at the city. Their level of dedication to the community as a whole always impressed me. And I enjoyed working with residents and property owners of the community, both newcomers and established residents. While the city has grown and changed over the years, Waconia has managed to maintain a small town community feel.”
At the meeting, officials took the opportunity to thank Hilgers for his many years of service to Waconia.
“It’s been my pleasure to have worked with John for the last half of his career here so I’m fortunate in that regard (and I) certainly wish him all the best,” said City Administrator Susan Arntz, who indicated that filling Hilgers’ shoes was going to be a tough assignment in the coming months.
Mayor Jim Nash told Hilgers that he was appreciative of his service to the city.
“Twenty-five years in one place is a real commitment,” Nash said. “You’ve served this city very, very faithfully. I appreciate all the effort you’ve put in. I know that you do an awful lot for the community that people don’t see so I’m very grateful for that. I wish you all the best as you head to what I consider my home state of Colorado. You’re going to love it out there and I wish you all the best.”
Councilor Marc Carrier noted that Hilgers excelled at explaining the details of complex projects.
“I really appreciate the detail and the clarity you’ve brought to your presentations on these projects,” he said. “You’ve always had a really great way of presenting it, keeping us straight, setting us straight. I really appreciate all you’ve done so thanks again, good luck.”
Councilor Charles Erickson thanked Hilgers for his leadership during his time with the city.
“Thanks for everything you’ve done for Waconia at a really critical time when the growth of this city. It’s a big loss to our city but a new opportunity for you so congratulations,” he said.
Councilor Kent Bloudek noted that he has probably known Hilgers longer than anyone at the meeting as they both grew up in Waconia and even played basketball together when they were younger.
“I was on the planning commission and John gave me a lot of insight and a lot of direction as far as that goes and that kind of proceeded (my move) forward into the city council role, so it was kind of a natural progression and I appreciate everything you’ve done for the city,” he said. “It’s been nice knowing you for all these years and hopefully you’re not a stranger to Waconia, you come back and visit. I wish you all the best.”
Councilor Lynn Ayers noted her appreciation for all of the orientation and advice Hilgers offered her in the month or so since she joined the council.
“As a resident of Waconia for over 25 years, I’ve watched your career, and you’ve answered many questions and represented our city very well and served our city very well so you’re a great loss and we’re going to miss you,” she added.
Before receiving a plaque of appreciation from the city, Hilgers spent a few moments at the microphone.
“I just have a few thank you’s I’d like to convey,” he said. “First, I would like to thank the city council both present and past for your hard work and support. It was a pleasure being able to work with all of you and to see firsthand your commitment to community. I truly appreciate your dedication.
“To the planning commission, both the current and past commissions, thank you for your time and energy on making recommendations on development issues. I enjoyed my time being able to work for you. Your attention to details and focus on the big picture has made Waconia a wonderful place to live, work and play.
“To my colleagues in the office and within all the various departments of the city, including our consulting staff, thank you for your professionalism and hard work. It was an honor to be a part of the team. You are the backbone of the community. Keep doing the great job that you do.
“And finally, last but not least, to the citizenry and property owners of Waconia, I really enjoyed getting to know you. I was able to meet and work with many of you over the years. Collectively, you make Waconia the diverse and vibrant community that it is today. Thanks for everything. I appreciate it,” he said.
In recent weeks, city staff has been developing a recruitment strategy and plan to fill the Planning Director position. Details of that plan will be brought to the council during its meeting on Monday, May 20.
Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]