BEMIDJI -- After more than 40 years of work in a number of roles for Beltrami County, Administrator Kay Mack announced this week her intention to begin a retirement process.
During a Beltrami County Board meeting Tuesday, Mack, 63, informed commissioners that she would stay in the role for six months and assist with the hiring of a new administrator. The six-month time frame, Mack said, would also accommodate the budget process and other county matters.
According to Mack, the decision originated in January when her husband also retired. However, her announcement was pushed back until the county had a full handle on the coronavirus situation.
While her decision was made a few months later than she had anticipated, Mack said she is comfortable with leaving in 2020, as some significant county projects are either finished or close to done.
One example Mack gave was the Minnesota Legislature authorizing the Red Lake Nation to begin its own independent, out-of-home placement program in 2021. Currently, Red Lake operates a foster care program, but the county is financially responsible for reimbursements.
Titled the Red Lake Initiative and advocated for by county officials, the new program would have the tribe work directly with the state and federal governments for financing.
Another project the county advocated for over the course of more than a decade was funding for a nursing home dedicated to veterans in Bemidji. In 2018, the effort began to pay off as the Legislature approved $12.4 million for a Bemidji Veterans Home.
Then, the county itself launched a fundraising effort and raised $2.3 million. The home in total is estimated at $42 million and the rest of the funding will come from the federal government. Bemidji's project is now in the lineup at the national level for federal funding and it could receive dollars in 2021.
Mack was also proud of the transition work for the county to finalize a purchase of Waste Management transfer stations in Bemidji and Blackduck, as well as other equipment, in 2017 for $1.85 million. After the purchase, upgrade projects started at the stations to have at least a 20-year life span, with the county covering $2.14 million and the state funding $3.45 million.
The purpose of the process was to bring the solid waste operations in house, which results in the county saving an estimated $300,000 annually.
Mental health care was also a subject Mack said she wanted to see through in her role. The county took a step forward on the matter in 2019 when the Sanford Health PrimeWest Residential Support Center opened.
The 6,800 square-foot facility provides care for mental health patients and individuals needing detox treatment. PrimeWest donated the building to the county, which then invested $1.2 million of state funding it received into the facility.
The county now leases the building to Sanford Health, which invested $1.5 million, for $1.
More recently, collaboration between the county and Sanford has started on a new behavioral health crisis center, which will be located next to the PrimeWest facility on Hannah Avenue in Bemidji.
With those matters now coming to a conclusion, Mack said the next administrator will likely face challenges related to the economy.
"The issues we're going to face in the near future are to do everything we can to support business as they get back on track," Mack said. "The county has limited impact on that, but we'll do what we can. Our service needs also outgrow our tax base in the county, so that's always a concern."
Mack, a BSU graduate, has been in the administrator role since 2012. She started working for the county in 1977 while attending college and finished her degree by taking night courses and going to classes over her lunch break.
She became county treasurer in 1986, and was then auditor/treasurer when the two roles were combined. Through all of her time with the county, Mack said her favorite part of the career was working with others in the community.
"That's what's really been rewarding," Mack said. "The ability to address challenges that come up in county government in as creative and collaborative ways as possible."
In her retirement, Mack said Tuesday she plans to spend more time with her family.