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Chris Leinen, Bemidji Area Schools’ director of business services, goes through old invoices with administrative assistant Lynette Rathe, who will soon retire. “She’s been my right-hand person,” Leinen said recently. “I couldn’t do it without her and I don’t know what I will do without her.” — Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

‘I love this job’: Longtime school district employee preparing for retirement

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Before, when it came time to compile the bills, Lynette Rathe would load paper into the manual typewriter and begin alphabetically listing each agency and how much money they were owed.

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In the rare occasion when a mistake was made or a business was overlooked, Rathe would have to start over from scratch.

“Oh, if you’d forget one invoice for North Country Business Products, you’d have to take it out (the entire list) and start all over,” said Rathe, adding technology certainly has made her job easier over the years.

Rathe, administrative assistance for Bemidji Area Schools’ director of business services, is retiring this spring after more than 44 years in the position.

“It goes by really fast,” Rathe said, looking back on her career. “I love this job. I have really enjoyed it.”

In February 1969, Rathe left a four-year job in medical records at the Bemidji hospital to join the school district in the business office.

She initially was paid 85 cents an hour.

“And that was a raise coming from the hospital,” Rathe said.

She has had just three bosses throughout her tenure: George Welte, who interviewed and hired her; Bryan Westerman, who moved on to other ventures; and Chris Leinen, who has been in his position about 13 years.

“She’s been fabulous. She’s been my right-hand person,” Leinen said of Rathe. “I couldn’t do it without her and I don’t know what I will do without her.”

Rathe’s work offers her some variety – in addition to paperwork, she also schedules facility use, runs elections, figures out staff IDs and does the bookkeeping for student activities – yet she also works most of the district’s sporting events, either selling tickets or doing crowd control.

“She’s been very conscientious of other people and very involved in not just the day-to-day activities of the business office, but also in the evenings, with all of the sports programs,” Leinen said. “She’s been a participant in all of those activities.

“She is very committed to the school district, just a real nice person.”

Rathe also serves on the district’s Hall of Fame committee, helping to select past athletes and teams for commendation.

“My boys were not in sports,” she said, referencing her two sons, “but I always enjoyed watching high school sports. Even with my boys, it was something we all did.”

As a single mom, Rathe, once divorced and once widowed, also has purposely stayed busy outside of her career. She works with the North Country Vocational Cooperative Center and works part-time for Christopher & Banks at Paul Bunyan Mall.

She expects to continue those activities in retirement, also hoping to visit more with her sons, two grandsons and two step granddaughters.

“But I want to rest some first,” Rathe said. “I’m not much of a morning person, that that’s going to be nice.”

She also plans to visit friends and dreams about going to North Carolina, though she doesn’t know anyone out there.

Retirement was a hard decision, said Rathe, guessing she first was eligible for retirement 10-12 years ago.

“Everybody always says, ‘Oh, I can’t want to retire,’ but when you get there, you’re really not so sure,” she said.

Her love of the job makes it really difficult to leave, she continued, talking about how much she enjoys working with her coworkers and supervisors.

Only once in her 44 years did she ever seriously consider leaving her job for another position, Rathe noted.

“I just kind of decided no, I wanted to stay here,” she said. “I’ve just so much always loved my job.”

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