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Paynesville Press - October 8, 2003

Four candidates vie for three school board seats - Part I

By Michael Jacobson

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, school district voters will choose from four declared candidates for three four-year terms on the Paynesville Area School Board. Filing as candidates are: Lowell Haagenson, incumbent Gretchen O'Fallon, Bonnie Strobbe, and Paul Thielen. Incumbents Maurice Dosdall and Pat Flanders did not file for re-election. Polling hours at the west lobby at Paynesville Area Elementary School will be from 12 noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Lowell Haagenson
Lowell Haagenson Lowell Haagenson, 43, served previously on the school board from 1995 to 1999, being elected in 1995 and resigning at the end of 1999.

Haagenson - who was born in Paynesville, moved away, and then moved back with his family 10 years ago - has two children in the district (Robert in ninth grade and Katrina in fifth grade), two children outside the district (including Laura, who attended school in Paynesville but is now a senior elsewhere), and a 13-month-old at home with his wife, Dorothy.

Haagenson has degrees in business administration and in business management and computer studies, and a master's degree in counseling and professional services.

Why are you interested in serving on the school board?
Students. I am interested in serving on the school board because I believe in the students within our district. I empathize with them and will be proud to consider their best interests in each issue addressed by the school board.

What leadership traits would you bring to the school board?
Followership. This is an essential trait for all leaders - especially in a shared leadership role (e.g. committee, board, etc.) because we will not agree on every issue and one must be willing and able to follow (and support) group decisions even when the decision/direction is other than one's personal opinion/desire.

Gretchen O'Fallon
Gretchen O'Fallon Gretchen O'Fallon, 43, has served on the school board since 1996, when she was appointed to replace Velda Larson. She was re-elected to a four-year term in 1999 and has served two years as clerk.

O'Fallon and her husband, Jim, currently have two children in the district: Bobby, a senior, and Russell, a seventh grader. Their daughter, Erin, graduated in 2001.

O'Fallon attended country school until fifth grade and graduated from PAHS in 1977. She earned an associate degree in interior design from Alexandria Technical College and has worked for 22 years in the field, including 17 years with her own design business.

Why are you interested in serving on the school board?
Serving on the school board is a great opportunity to stay informed with what is happening in our schools.

What leadership traits would you bring to the school board?
I feel the best traits that I bring to the school board are that I look at the positive side of issues. I am a "real" person. I've been on the board since 1996. I have/had three children in the system and have experienced each of the three schools with them. Lastly, I believe it is important to be part of the action, not just the reaction!

Bonnie Strobbe
Bonnie Strobbe Bonnie Strobbe, 56, has spent 51 years in education. Her schooling includes a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa and a master's degree and specialists license from the University of St. Thomas. The Iowa native taught, coached, and served as an athletics administrator, assistant principal, and principal during a 34-year education career, including 25 years at St. Paul Central.

For the past nine years - since moving to Lake Koronis full time - she has worked in St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids. She retired as principal of Mississippi Heights Middle School in June 2003.

Strobbe has owned property on Lake Koronis since 1986 and lived here permanently since 1994.

Why are you interested in serving on the school board?
I've spent my entire life in education, and just because I've retired my passion for making things the best they can be for kids has not changed. I've been looking for a way to contribute to this community, and certainly your school board members have reflected that kind of commitment.

What leadership traits would you bring to the school board?
I've been fortunate in my career to have had opportunities to lead at many levels: as a teacher, coach, activities director, and administrator. The most important thing a leader can do is value all the constituents for their experience and wisdom. As a leader, I feel it is my responsibility to create the environment in which people will work together and share their expertise to reach a common goal.

Paul Thielen
Paul Thielen Paul Thielen, 43, moved to Paynesville with his family in 1999. Of his five children, four have attended the Paynesville Public Schools, including three currently: Todd, a junior; Jessica, a sophomore; and Alexxis, 5, who has suffered from leukemia for three years and who also has had a stroke and uses preschool special education. (Another son, Tony, graduated from PAHS in 2003.)

A 1979 graduate of Grace High School in Fridley, now Totino-Grace High School, Thielen graduated from the Dunwoody Industrial Institute. A printer by trade, he is now a stay-at-home dad, at least until Alexxis gets medical clearance to attend daycare.

Thielen's uncle Larry served on the school board in the 1960s and 1970s and his father Harry currently serves on the Paynesville Township board.

Why are you interested in serving on the school board?
I am tired of being a spectator on the sidelines. I want to get into the playing field where the future of our children is at stake. I, to the best of my ability, will push for the welfare of our children. I also believe that having children in our school system will help in having an impact for their future, along with the future of students yet to come.

What leadership traits would you bring to the school board?
President, vice president, and secretary of the Twin Cities Litho Club (1990-96). Past delegate to the National Association of Litho Clubs (1992-96). I have also coached hockey (North Branch and Coon Rapids). The experience in dealing with young people and their parents taught me that whether we were winning or losing, everyone had to give it their best. Being a member of the school board will give me a chance to give it my best.

Part II  •  Part III  •  Part IV

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