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Schacher entering new life chapter

Submitted photo

Friday, Sept. 30, marked the end of an era at West Fargo City Hall as the official retirement day of Sharon Schacher who during her tenure had accrued a total of 35 years.

Schacher began her journey with the city on Sept. 16, 1976, at the age of 31 in what she believed was to be a one-year temporary slot. After the end of the year, she was asked to stay on, and when all was said and done, with the 35-year tally, the reality and finality had set in - she had been a city employer longer than she wasn't.

She admits leaving her post with bittersweet feelings, but definitely on a high note knowing that her role through the years in a variety of "financial" areas has contributed to the city's present sound financial state.

Her first position was accounting clerk. In 1979 she was named deputy auditor, and following the death of city auditor Mike McLeod she served as interim auditor from March 2003 until July of 2003 when Jim Brownlee assumed those duties. She was promoted to city finance director in 2005. Schacher also spent 25 years as West Fargo Park District Clerk.

During her service, Schacher worked alongside four mayors: the late Clayton Lodoen and Florenz Bjornson, David Stedman, who continues to reside in West Fargo, and present mayor Rich Mattern: three auditors the late Jeff Dahle and Mike McLeod and current city administrator Jim Brownlee; and saw the employee base grow from 25-plus to the current 116 individuals the city has on staff.

Mayor Mattern, who has been associated with Schacher since first being elected to office in 2002, said "it has been great working with Sharon through the years. She cares so much about West Fargo, which always showed in her work. When Mike died, she was the one that pulled everyone together in city hall and carried us forward. I'll always be grateful to Sharon for that. She has seen a great deal of growth in the city and in city hall. With the growth came some pains, but Sharon moved forward so that city hall could keep up. She certainly will be missed by every city employee, not just those in city hall. She is a big part of the West Fargo family and will be missed!"

Schacher said being associated with the entire city crew has been a distinct privilege and although she has respect for many close colleagues, the one individual who made the greatest impact on her life at City Hall would be Clayton Lodoen. "I had not been in the workforce for ten years when I came to work for the city and probably had lost some confidence. As I was hired for only one year to fill a leave of absence, I thought it would be a good thing to work for that one year and have something more recent to offer once my children were in school and I would go back to work.  Clayton believed in me like no one else in my life ever had.  He had the greatest vision for the city and got me excited to be part of that. He was tough on the outside but I really got to know him on the inside and he thought I was pretty great.  The belief he had in me encouraged me to work hard and be the best employee I could strive to be. I still miss his humor and vision."

The changes she's noted have also been numerous, including those affecting population, technology, and the overcrowded working conditions at various locations. "When I started the population was a little over 7,000, everything was computed on a posting machine, and we thought we had great office space, which soon became overcrowded just as it is now."

As for what she will miss the most Schacher's answer comes as no surprise. "I will miss the employees and the business contacts I was associated with the most.  I will also miss digging for the numbers that make everything balance."

"On the flip side, I will not miss trying to balance two positions and not being able to give 100 percent plus to either," a reference to her dual roles as city finance director and human resource director, the latter a newly created and hired position for the city. "The decision to split the duties and hire a finance director and a human resource director, was the right one which will allow the two new hires to totally concentrate on each position and not have to crossover."

"I do especially feel good walking out of here today and leaving my position in the hands of the two employees hired.  They both know their jobs very well and will bring new and fresh solutions and ideas to the table.  It will be a great comfort to me to know the City will thrive on that."

Schacher said that if she is going to be remembered in her duties for anything she would like it to be "that the employees knew they could always count on me and knew I would always be truthful. They always knew I would be upfront and honest.  My love for the community and caring for the employees in attempting to make sure everything was handled with honesty and integrity hopefully would be my greatest accomplishment."

She said she also wanted to thank the community for the wonderful recognition they showed during her last week at work, with many employees as well as members of the business sector stopping at city hall to offer their good byes. "It really is great being a part of this community that I love so much.

On that note, the city of West Fargo will be giving everyone the opportunity to wish Schacher well in her retirement with a special open house planned in her honor this Friday, Oct. 7, at the West Fargo VFW, 308 Sheyenne St.

The open house will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. with a presentation at 5:15 p.m.

Everyone is welcome to stop in, visit, share stories or just plain old reminisce.

Schacher said once all the excitement of stepping down subsides and she is able to get accustomed to all her newfound "retirement" time, she plans on filling it wisely, doing all the things she hasn't had the ability to do in the past. That will include spending more time with her family: husband, Willie, an employee of the North Dakota Department of Transportation; and her children and grandchildren: son David, his wife, Terri, and daughter, Charlee, West Fargo; and daughters Melanie, West Fargo; and Melisa, and her husband, Tom Kennedy, and daughters, Katie and Cassie, Chicago. She also intends to catch up on her rest, do a lot of walking, reading and eventually some volunteer work. "I will just need a little time to sort it all out and go from there."

She said the "realism that retirement was the right move" was reinforced repeatedly as her last day on the job played out on Friday. "As I left my home this morning I informed my family that when I came home tonight I would no longer be employed.  As I put the key to unlock the door at City Hall I knew it would be the last time I would ever unlock that door again and it felt so right. I will be entering a new chapter in my life and I look at that with anticipation and wonder and know that I have made the right decision. I look up and say 'thank you God for this part and I know you will be with me the rest of the journey.' Thank you to each one of you making this chapter enjoyable for me."