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Maxwell wraps up longtime public works career

Starting out in the all-around position of 'girl Friday,' which eventually translated into the title of 'office manager,' Gloreen Maxwell just recently wrapped up 35 ½ years of service with the West Fargo Public Works Department - beginning her career in October of 1974 and marking her last official day April 2, 2010.

Originally from Clinton, Minn., Maxwell graduated from high school there in 1960. Fresh out of school, she worked for a dentist for a short while in Ortonville, Minn., before moving to St. Cloud, Minn., where her sister lived, and where she also met her future husband, Eddie Haas, who she married in 1962.

The couple ultimately moved to Fargo, raising three children, Lisa and Joby who live in Horace, and Lori in Mankato.

Gloreen later met widower Lyle Maxwell, marrying him in 1972, adding three more sons to their blended family, Gene, Greg and Clyde. "We weren't quite the Brady Bunch, but almost," Gloreen said with a chuckle.

Adding to the family, Gloreen was also caring for foster children, including little Chad, who came to their home as an infant, and who they adopted shortly thereafter.

Up until this time, Gloreen had not worked outside the home. It was when Chad reached two that Gloreen felt comfortable finally leaving her baby, turning his care over to Gloria Ruhnke. "Knowing you have someone you can really rely on was a tremendous help. The other kids were in school, this worked out well with my 8:30 to 4:30 day."

Gloreen had been performing bookkeeping duties for the North Dakota Sewage and Lift Station, owned by Dick Fuller and another individual. Fuller also worked for the city and was instrumental in establishing Gloreen in the newly created 'girl Friday' position after meeting with city commission approval.

Gloreen said that during her tenure, "the job didn't change much, but the city sure did. Meyer was still a farm and not a boulevard, and 13th Avenue was dirt. We lived in a house on 10 ½ Avenue East and our backyard was a vacant lot. There were no buildings behind us.

"Since those earlier days, the city has grown tremendously. When I started, the city had one road grader and City Hall, the fire and police departments were all located together on First Street."

In retrospect, Gloreen says "the years have gone by really fast." She said her decision to step down was prompted by a desire to want to do other things she hadn't had time to do in the past, as well as the feeling she needed to turn the role over to "younger people with fresher ideas."

Gloreen said some of that free time may be devoted to writing a book. "Lyle's family has a lot of history going back to the revolutionary days and a connection to President McKinley. I thought it would be interesting to search out that relationship."

However, for the immediate time being, Gloreen is not planning anything too intense, intending to take it one day at a time, savoring each moment. "I think life is a lot like a river and you just have to flow with it. In that regard, I'm just enjoying my days off. I haven't accomplished much and that's okay for now. The first week or so I knew I didn't have to go to work, it was kind of a unique sad feeling, but I have kind of gotten over it. You miss it, but on the other hand you have to deal with it. It's kind of like being a foster parent - you do the best you can do and then let go."

What she is missing the most is the structure of having to be somewhere at a certain time and being part of something, and definitely the people she has come into contact with throughout the years, especially her co-workers who she will miss immensely, and try to stop in and visit as often as possible. "Some have been there almost as long as myself, others even longer, and I will think of them often. I've enjoyed working for the city. It's been interesting and not one day repetitious of another. It was a nice place to work and as a person I couldn't expect much more from a position."

Friends, family and co-workers will be getting together to give Gloreen the proper send-off, recognizing her for her 35-plus years of service at a special retirement party planned in her honor on Thursday, May 13, at the West Fargo VFW, 308 Sheyenne St.

The event will feature a social at 6 p.m., with a dinner at 6:30 p.m. and a program following.

Tickets for the party are available by contacting the West Fargo Public Works Department at 433-5400 or West Fargo City Hall at 433-5300.