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Barb Wiedmer hired as new city auditor and development corporation executive

Many Kenmare residents are going to recognize the new face behind the auditor’s desk when they make a stop at City Hall.

8/03/11 (Wed)

Barb Wiedmer, new Kenmare city auditor and Kenmare
Community Development Corporation executive director


By Caroline Downs
Many Kenmare residents are going to recognize the new face behind the auditor’s desk when they make a stop at City Hall.
As a longtime resident herself, Barb Wiedmer is excited about serving her community. “I’m looking forward to a challenge,” she said about her new job with the city. “I believe you grow old if your mind is not working daily!”
Wiedmer moved to Kenmare from St. Cloud, MN, as a young girl with her parents RaeJeanne Zeltinger and the late Dennis Wink. “My family farm was 25 miles north of Kenmare,” she said.
She attended schools in Palermo and Donnybrook before graduating from Sherwood. “My dad wasn’t big on the ‘bigger’ schools,” she said, laughing as she added he considered Kenmare to be one of those “big” schools around.
Wiedmer went to college to become a flight attendant, but didn’t work for an airline because she married and gave birth to twin daughters. “It’s too hard to fly around the world and raise your children,” she said.
Later, she worked for Kenmare Community Hospital as a certified nursing assistant and then spent six years at State Bank & Trust of Kenmare. Fifteen years ago, she joined the office staff at Eagle Operating, Inc., where she worked as an administrative assistant before moving to the city’s front desk.
“I was ready for a change,” she said, “and this opportunity came up.”
That opportunity actually involves working both as the city auditor and as the executive director for the Kenmare Community Development Corporation. She started the dual role on July 25th and got to work immediately, even bringing her own dust rag to the office.
“It’s been wonderful and everybody has been so helpful,” she said, then laughed. “I’ve been cleaning files, but I’m not throwing anything away unless Candace [Sieg] or Mike [Thompson] tells me I can!”
As she arranges the auditor’s desk to her satisfaction, Wiedmer is discovering new elements about the city she has called home. “I’m not into the politics,” she said, “but I’m learning the everyday business.”
So far last week, the everyday business included the basics of special assessments and Fund-ITT. Her bedtime reading has been the new city ordinance book, with nearly 300 pages, and the file of Renaissance Zone requirements.
Wiedmer embraces all of it.
“I would like to get this organized,” she said, gesturing around at her desk with a few stacks of paper still awaiting their proper placement. “I want to work at being more organized and making things user-friendly in here.”
From Wiedmer’s perspective, service to the citizens of Kenmare is one of her top priorities, and she wants to answer questions and assist people when they show up at the counter. “Right now, I have to say, ‘I don’t know’ and I hate those three words!” she said. “If someone comes in, I want to be able to help them immediately.”
After her first week on the job, she sees a need to completely update the cemetery records and prepare a map of the city that shows who owns or resides at each property. She believes both items would provide useful information for city council members, city employees and citizens with questions.
Serves as executive director
for Kenmare Community
Development Corporation, too
Wiedmer is concentrating on the auditor’s role right now, but she is looking forward to representing the Kenmare Community Development Corporation as executive director. “I’m willing to learn anything and everything they’re willing to tell me,” she said, then smiled. “I’m young enough to be able to handle it!”
Based on her own experiences in Kenmare and those of her family and friends, Wiedmer has a clear message she wants to communicate about the town. “Kenmare is a friendly town,” she said. “It’s safe. This is the kind of place you can send your children to the pool on their bikes. It’s nice to go downtown where people wave at you and they know you.”
She likes the way Kenmare residents take pride in their community with neat lawns and clean streets, saying that she has traveled in recent years for work related to the oil and gas industry and noticed some other towns in western North Dakota have a less-than-tidy appearance. “It just seems like they’re not as well taken care of as Kenmare is,” she said.
She continued, “Here, people respect their yards. They respect their neighbors. It’s clean, it’s friendly, it’s safe, it’s a good place.”
Living in that kind of good community is important to Wiedmer. “I care about those things because I have grandchildren here,” she said.
Now married to Greg Wiedmer, the couple spends plenty of time in Kenmare with Barb’s daughters Jessica and Nicole Brekhus, who are each raising nearly-two-year-old girls of their own. The Wiedmers share their home with Greg’s grown son James and welcome visits from one of Greg’s daughters now living in Dickinson and another daughter, her husband and children from Sidney, Montana.
Like other Kenmare residents, Wiedmer certainly notices changes around town as the area continues to feel the effects of the current boom in the oil and gas industry. However, 15 years of work and friendships with oilfield crews has also taught Wiedmer about the people who make their living in that industry. She advised Kenmare residents to resist accepting the negative stereotypes of those individuals, that new problems in a community should not be automatically blamed on the new people in town.
“I think it’s a great thing [drilling companies] are coming this direction,” she said. “I’ve seen the ups, seen the downs, and now see the ups again, and I would ask other people to give them credit. They work hard.”
Wiedmer will be working hard, too, depending on direction from deputy auditor Candace Sieg, director of public works Mike Thompson, police chief Gary Kraft and mayor Roger Ness as she becomes comfortable and knowledgeable in her new roles.
At the same time, she assures Kenmare’s citizens she is ready to serve them. “I was taught to be honest,” she said, “and I will do the best I can for the city because I am a citizen of Kenmare myself.”