Osberg's final day as city administrator is Friday
In March of 1989, Dave Osberg took a new job. He had been working in St. James when the city administrator position in Hastings opened up.
City Hall had a much different dynamic back then. There was significant unrest in the council prior to Osberg's hiring, and it continued in some measure into the first part of his career here. Anyone who came into his position would have had a tough time, Osberg said.
"All the sudden, it's 24 years later. If people had told me in March of '89 I would still be here, I would have said, 'I don't think so,'" he said.
On Friday, Osberg will put in his last day as Hastings City Administrator, two days past his 24-year anniversary. His next project will be leading staff in the City of Eagan as that city's administrator.
"I don't feel I'm leaving Hastings," Osberg said. "I'm going to Eagan."
The option to take the job in Eagan came at just the perfect time for Osberg to make the change. Back in 2000, Osberg applied for a position in Maplewood, but the timing just wasn't right. Now that all of his children are grown - his youngest recently started college - it's much easier for him to shift his career.
Had Eagan's former administrator retired either a few years sooner or later, Osberg said he's not sure he would have made the move.
Twenty-four years is a lot of time to rack up some significant accomplishments, and Osberg certainly has a few. His best memories, he said, are working with the people. Many of the people he's worked with over the years have become more than just co-workers or business contacts; they've become friends, he said, and he expects those friendships to continue even after he moves to Eagan.
Osberg has helped the city on several key projects throughout the years. One of his early projects was working on moving City Hall from Sibley Street (in what is now the Onion Grille) to its current location along Fourth Street. It took two to three years to secure the building.
Mid-way through his career here, Osberg worked on annexing about 160 acres of land that is now the Wallin Development in west Hastings. It took several people to make that project a reality, with lots of negotiations between homeowners and the Catholic church. Osberg remembers driving home after the project was completed and stopping at the intersection of 15th Street and General Sieben Drive. That day, he got out of his vehicle and walked into the freshly paved intersection, reflecting on the process that made that very road and realizing that he had helped make it happen.
More recently, Osberg has been part of another "fun project," the acquisition of the former Hudson building in downtown Hastings. It's a great feeling to know he had something to do with that, Osberg said.
While Osberg has had his share of good memories, the top staff position in the city isn't without challenges. The most difficult issues Osberg has had to deal with have been related to personnel.
"Any time you have personnel matters, they're tough to deal with," he said.
He can generally tell when one of those issues is at hand. Osberg keeps his office door open, and whenever someone closes it to talk to him, nine out of 10 times he can expect to be talking about people, he said.
He recalled one of his earliest projects, back in 1989. Just 30 years old and new to Hastings and the job, he got thrown into the fire with a pair of development projects. The Housing and Redevelopment Authority (the predecessor of the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority) was working on a possible hotel development and a senior housing development.
While adjusting to his new position, Osberg had another detail to overcome. He had been hired in March of 1989, but didn't move his young family to Hastings until May. For about two months, he lived with friends and family in Hastings during the week and would go back home for the weekends.
"I remember it being some very difficult times, all while learning a new job," he said.
Through it all, though, he had the help of other staff here and the city council.
Back to Eagan
When Osberg takes his new job in Eagan, it will be a return to the city. He worked for the city from 1981 to 1982 as an administrative and planning assistant.
"It's kind of fun... to reflect on what the changes are," he said.
He remembers one of the projects he worked on back then, a request for proposals for architects interested in drafting plans for Eagan's new city hall.
"Now 30 years later... I'll be working in a building that was a field of grass when I was there," Osberg said.
He worked with Eagan's former administrator, Tom Hedges, back then, and the two became good friends. Hedges became both a personal and professional mentor to Osberg. Osberg said he knew that if Hedges were to retire, it would mean he would have a major decision to make - either stay in Hastings or enter the running to replace Hedges.
The final meeting
On Monday evening, Osberg sat at his final city council meeting. The city council made significant and sometimes lighthearted efforts to express its thanks and appreciation for Osberg's leadership over the years. Council members individually thanked him for his professionalism, positive attitude, respect for city staff, trustworthiness, commitment and dedication.
"You are easily among the best, if not the best public servant I've had the honor of working with," said councilmember Anthony Alongi. "...I can't imagine a city administrator has left a city in better shape."
"I feel like I've learned a lot from you," councilmember Danna Elling Schultz told Osberg. She said she feels he's helped her become a better elected official and a better person.
Mayor Paul Hicks, elected to the council in 1990, has been a part of Hastings government almost as long as Osberg.
"This is a hard time for me," Hicks said. "... But we look ahead as you do."
Osberg gave an emotional response. When he started working for the City of Hastings, he said, he didn't know how welcoming the people here would be of him and his family, how many personal and professional growth opportunities there would be, how serious the community would be about electing committed officials and that he would be leading such dedicated employees. Had he known all that, he might have expected his stay here to be as long as it has been today.
He specifically thanked four people. He thanked Hicks for his leadership, support, guidance and friendship. He thanked Ed Riveness, the only council member who was around when Osberg was hired, for taking a chance on the 30-year-old from St. James and for being such a rock on the council. He thanked Tom Montgomery, the staff member he's worked with the longest. And he thanked Melanie Mesko Lee for helping him overcome his mid-career struggles when she joined the city 14 years ago.
Osberg also thanked his family - his wife, Laurie, and four children for their patience and support. He shared with the council and public a card his daughter sent before he accepted the position in Eagan. It read, "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
Osberg expressed his heartfelt thanks, "and I wish all of you nothing but the best," he said.
A farewell gathering is planned for Thursday, March 21, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Schoolhouse Square Event Center, 101 E. 10th St. (second floor above Premier Bank). There will be light appetizers and a cash bar. A brief presentation will be made at 6 p.m.