Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office secretary to retire after 40 years

Published 11:37 am Tuesday, June 21, 2016

An Albert Lea woman and secretary in the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office will retire Friday after a four-decade career.

Debra Mortensen, 58, started at the Sheriff’s Office as a clerk and typist in June 1976, a week after she graduated from Alden-Conger High School.

“I have been blessed,” Mortensen said.

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She said she chose the Sheriff’s Office position out of three job offers she received, and doesn’t regret her choice.

“I guess I picked the right job,” Mortensen said.

Mortensen became a personal secretary to the sheriff in 1980 and has since served as secretary for five sheriffs, including Holland Laak, Donald Nolander Jr., Mark Harig, Bob Kindler and Kurt Freitag.

“I’ve enjoyed my career and it has been an honor and privilege to serve as secretary for five sheriffs,” she said. “May God bless my law enforcement family and keep them safe.”

She said she is excited and sad about retiring, noting that though she will not miss deadlines or waking up to an alarm clock, she will miss her law enforcement family and other friends in county offices after she retires.

She said she has enjoyed working on different parts of her position, working with the deputies and working with the sheriffs, noting each sheriff had his own personality and strengths.

As secretary, Mortensen handles communication between the Sheriff’s Office and companies, submitting bills for payment and handling insurance, auto loss notices, personnel files, annual permits, ordering supplies and other responsibilities.

Mortensen has been married to Ben — a detective at the Albert Lea Police Department — for 29 years.

Freitag said Mortensen has brought reliability, punctuality, professionalism and a positive attitude to the Sheriff’s Office, noting he thinks she has been vital to the department.

“We wouldn’t function without Deb doing her job,” he said. “We truly could not.”

Mortensen has been an organist at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Conger for 46 years and serves as financial secretary of the parish’s worship committee.

In retirement, Mortensen hopes to spend more time with her nieces and nephews, play piano once a week at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and stay involved with church activities.

The public is invited to attend a retirement party for Mortensen from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday in the Freeborn Room at the Freeborn County Government Center. Refreshments and snacks will be served. A retirement open house will be from 7 to 10 p.m. July 15 at Wedgewood Cove.

Mortensen said she will look at her career as a success.

“It was a great career,” she said. “I think of it as a career, not a job.”

Debra Mortensen

Age: 58

Residence: Albert Lea

Livelihood: secretary at Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office

Family: husband, Ben

Fun fact: Mortensen enjoys playing piano, walking, crocheting and photography.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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