Guest Column: Thank you, Albert Lea, for the time spent here

Published 8:12 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2020

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Guest Column by Jerry Gabrielatos


Over the past few weeks, I’ve thought about what Albert Lea means to me. Those thoughts weave between the personal and the professional. I was not only your neighbor, friend or acquaintance, but also your assistant city manager, acting city manager and hot dish judge.

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In all those roles, the word that kept coming to mind was “grateful.” I am grateful that I had the chance to establish and build relationships by running into you at Hy-Vee or sitting next to you at a Heritage Preservation Commission meeting, happy that our paths had crossed.

Jerry Gabrielatos

I thought the best way to frame my farewell is in a style that steals from Esquire magazine, writing simply “What I’ve learned,” from the two sides of the coin I referenced:

Professionally, I’ve learned:

• Smart and motivated people make you better. I am grateful to have worked with 135 people who take pride in their work, think critically and ask questions.

• The mayor and nine councilors have helped me grow. A difficult council meeting and tough one-on-one conversations galvanized better policies and better outcomes.

• Good people in our sister organizations have made Albert Lea better. Andy Henschel, Tom Jensen, Shari Jenson, Phillip Johnson, Holly Karsjens and Jeanne Leick — I am grateful to have worked with you and excited about what you do next.

  The work we did to get people involved and engaged was and remains the most worthwhile part of this job — whether that was through community meetings after church, going door-to-door or a kitschy social media campaign. When people get involved, good things happen. I am grateful to have done it, and hopeful that the effort is continued.

• Albert Lea can be a leader on sustainability and resilience. During my five years, we laid the groundwork for it.

Personally, I’ve learned:

• Prince is the greatest musician of all-time.

• Minnesota during the fall might be what heaven feels like.

• Shoveling your driveway might be what hell feels like.

• Albert Lea is best experienced by bike or boat.

• Tater tots are the easy way to a blue ribbon at a hot dish competition.

• You can know someone in many contexts — bingo buddy from the Legion, bowling league, high school classmate or fellow hockey parent.

• The speed limit on Bridge is 45 mph. I am grateful to the people who reminded me of that by using their horns while driving behind me.

I’ll be back. The guys in my fantasy baseball league need to take my money every year. I’ll be here in March, with eternal hope for my fantasy team and the White Sox.

Thank you.

Jerry Gabrielatos is the assistant Albert Lea city manager. He recently accepted a job in West Linn, Oregon. His last day is today.