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New faces leading Flandrau State Park

Bob Horstmann and Joanne Svendsen stand behind the welcome desk at Flandrau State Park. They are the new assistant park director and interim park director respectively.

Joanne Svendsen, who was previously assistant park manager at Fort Ridgley, is now park manager for both parks. Bob Horstmann is the new assistant park manager at Flandrau, taking on the position full-time.

The current Park Manager Maureen Morgan is taking maternity leave until mid-October. Taking her place, Svendsen has over 25 years of experience working in state parks, starting at Big Stone Lake State Park in 1998 before transferring to Fort Ridgley in 2012.

Svendsen said several factors influenced her choice to take the position at Flandrau.

“I wanted the challenge of operating a different park,” she said. “I was looking forward to working with the excellent staff here. I wanted to still be involved with Fort Ridgley at the same time. This position allows me to be involved with both parks. It’s a little bit closer to home; Fort Ridgley is a little bit of a drive. This is a much shorter commute.”

Svendsen has been at Flandrau for around a month, and she said it’s been a learning experience.

“It’s been crazy,” she said. “I’ve been here for just under a month and [there’s been] so many new things to learn. Pond operations are very complex; that’s taken a lot of time to become familiar with. Getting to know the new staff has been exciting and interesting. Hiring people and learning a new set of operational issues. The couple dozen buildings here and all their operational needs.”

With the pond and campground group center opening for the season, Svendsen said it is a very busy time of year. As a result, she said the combined responsibilities of Flandrau and Fort Ridgley take a lot of time. In a month, after becoming more familiar with the operations at Flandrau, Svendsen said everything should be well in hand.

Horstmann started as a correctional officer, before deciding he wanted to do something different. After getting his masters from North Dakota State University, Horstmann spent time in Wisconsin at Devil’s Lake and Mirror Lake State Parks.

Horstmann said his time as a correctional officer has helped him handle conflict and use patience.

“Working in the prison, you have a lot of people yell and get upset with you,” he said. “When moving to the parks, it’s not always what everyone expects it to be. Office hours aren’t always open, trails get closed, and the swimming pond gets closed. Being able to relate with people if they get upset about a closing or something else.”

After four months at the park, Horstmann said it has been stressful at times due to Wisconsin and Minnesota running two different systems at every level. For Horstmann, the fulfillment he gets is all worth it.

“Being able to protect and preserve the natural resources in the area,” he said. “Leaving something for the next generation. My employees are probably the most important part of the job. Making sure they’re taken care of. I think of them as a family away from the family. I want to make sure that they have what they need, they’re safe and they’re comfortable doing their job.”

For more information on Flandrau State Park, visit https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00145

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