New SWCD administrator excited to merge two loves into one career


GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Laura Christensen is the new administrator of Fillmore County's soil and water conservation district.
By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Laura Christensen’s evolved northward, then southward, and finally, karstward.

“I grew up on a farm in southwestern Minnesota, and I enjoyed time sitting on a tractor with my dad as well as running around the prairie natural areas, and I think those two experiences evolved into a career,” she recalled.

“I’ve been kind of all over,” Christensen continued. “I started off at Bemidji State University, and from there, I got different jobs all over the state, on the North Shore, in central Minnesota. The last place I was in Carlton County, up by Duluth, working with another SWCD.”

Christensen officially became Fillmore County’s new soil and water conservation district (SWCD) administrator upon the retirement of longtime SWCD administrator Donna Rasmussen at the end of May.

“It seems kind of fitting that I would wind up here, in a place where there’s both ag and beautiful natural scenery,” she added.

Christensen, whose first day at the SWCD was May 6, elaborated, “I kind of feel like at the SWCD, we’re working to make those two coexist, that you can have ag and healthy aquifers, working to help those two exist, because we need to eat.”

She feels she’s taking on a role that’s necessary but hard to fill after Rasmussen’s contributions and tenure.

“I officially started May 6, so I had three weeks’ overlap time, and every moment was precious. She’s awesome, and I appreciate the mentorship. To me, I guess I find it an honor to be in this position because what we’re doing is providing environmental staff to do the best they can implementing conservation projects,” Christensen said. “To be honest, I don’t know of a more challenging SWCD to dive into, because Donna had over 48 grant programs going at one time.”

That’s not to say that Christensen isn’t ready to tackle the piles of paperwork to keep the grant funding coming into the SWCD’s offices to help maintain programs that keep the region’s karst topography ecologically sound.

“Oddly enough, I love managing budgets – it’s a fun little challenge,” she continued. “There will be bumps along the way, but that’s to be expected. Another good challenge is bringing in as much applicable money as possible for effective conservation.”

Christensen described herself as contemplative of doing what makes the most sense.

“I like to do what’s logical. I take a comprehensive view and understanding of things, not just pigeonholing things. I look at the big picture,” she explained. “We’re here to help. We can help farmers with conservation practices that can be both beneficial to the environment as well as to their bottom line.”

She’s pleased to have the expertise of the SWCD’s staff as she ventures into new territory as administrator, and commented that she’s able to rely on them to provide services that benefit both the environment and agriculture.

“I’m excited to be continuing the legacy of the SWCD. I think I have a great group of people here. I’d pretty much only dabbled in administration,” Christensen said. “My supervisors let me dive into a few projects where I was leading. I find it advantageous to have a very technical background with every program that the SWCD offers – wetlands, monitoring – helping staff do their jobs and understanding what’s going on. I do plan on making a presence with my staff to keep up on what’s going on out in the field…and to get out of the office, too. And one perk of the administrative role is no mosquitoes or ticks.”

She anticipates facilitating some educational activities that are meant to teach Fillmore County residents how they can have a part in keeping the rivers, fields and forests in top shape. “We have some educational things coming up – there’ll be a forestry field day on July 24 — and we’ll probably have a presence at the county fair. I look forward to seeing a lot of new faces,” she said.

Christensen enjoys spending her free time outdoors. “I like to go up north because I still have a cabin up there, and I like to go mountain biking and wakeboarding, do things on the water, and I enjoy things here, like fishing, hunting and biking,” she concluded.

To reach Christensen, call the SWCD at 507-765-3878, email her at Laura.Christensen@fillmoreswcd.org, check out the SWCD’s website at www.fillmoreswcd.org or its Facebook page, or stop in at the SWCD’s offices just off Highway 52 in Preston.