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Dave Olson, Published May 24 2010

Retirement spike at Moorhead Public Service causes some concern

Moorhead Public Service is experiencing a brain drain.

The utility has lost several longtime employees in the past year representing a wealth of institutional knowledge.

The latest heading out the door is Cliff McLain, the city’s water division manager, who is retiring after almost 38 years with the agency.

Before that, there was Dave Kahly, electric division manager, who left in late 2009 for a new job at an electric cooperative in Idaho, taking 25 years of experience with him.

Earlier in 2009, Guy Thoreson, who was administration and finance manager for Moorhead Public Service, retired after 20 years.

And then this past March, Kenny Mantei, who was in charge of the city’s water crews, retired.

“You talk about institutional knowledge; (Mantei) had a lot of knowledge in his head about where stuff was,” said Bill Schwandt, MPS general manager, who described Mantei as a walking geographic information system.

“He just knew where everything was. That is tough to lose that,” Schwandt said.

McLain, whose last day on the job was last week, said he’s seen a lot of changes over the years.

A big one was Moorhead’s water treatment facility, which went online in 1994 but is still known as the “new water plant,” McLain said.

He said the plant has worked well and it has allowed the city to use more water from the Red River instead of the Buffalo aquifer, the city’s backup water supply.

The shift has allowed the aquifer to recharge to levels not seen since the 1950s, said McLain, who will turn 60 this summer and said he may try his hand at consultant work after retiring.

Schwandt said many of the job vacancies were filled internally with experienced employees and the agency is doing fine despite the departures.

But a replacement for Kahly in the electric division hasn’t been found, and a professional recruiter told the utility it could expect the hunt to take up to a year.

“I’m an electrical engineer and I’m able to step in,” Schwandt said.

“What happens is, the smaller issues get pushed back, and we might have to use consultants a little bit more than we typically would.

“It’s mainly things take a little bit longer,” Schwandt said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555