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Marilyn Hagerty, Forum Communications Co., Published April 29 2012

Hagerty: Area residents share memories of first jobs, best jobs

Dress casual, but neat. Update your resume. Learn to sell yourself.

This was the advice for jobseekers who attended the job fair at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks this past Tuesday. I wasn’t exactly looking for a job, but I went over to visit with people hunting and people hiring.

Greg Strausbaugh and Tom Fetsch of Job Service North Dakota were there welcoming a record 750 people who came looking for jobs. And there were 60 employers on hand. Keith Reitmeier, customer service area manager, said this is the biggest job fair in the state. And there will be another in Grand Forks on Sept. 11.

The unemployment rate is 3.8 percent in North Dakota — the lowest in the nation. In Grand Forks County, the rate is 4.2 percent. And there are about 1,700 job openings in the county.

Retailers are always looking for help. So are the restaurants. Right now, Cirrus is hiring. And LM WindPower is hiring production technicians. Jobs are waiting in manufacturing and trades. Wood Products was there, Reitmeier said.

Waiters are reported to be getting over $10 an hour when you total in tips. The rate is $12 in a lot of places.

Schwan’s Home Service was one of the businesses seeking help here. Representatives said pay ranges from $35,000 a year up to $80,000. That’s depending on ability. There’s not a lot of heavy lifting, but you get in and out of the truck 60 to 100 times a day. I was thinking in another life, I would like to be the Schwan’s lady.

Everybody has to start somewhere, and Reitmeier said his first job was washing cars at the Ford garage in Fosston, Minn. He was 16, and he got $1.25 an hour.

The best job he ever had is the one right now. He likes seeing people walk out of the job fair with a smile on their face.

That first job! How great it is, and I have been asking people around Grand Forks about their first job and their best job.

• Paul Gilberg, who is assistant manager of the Ramada Inn, first went to work as a boy delivering the Minneapolis Tribune with his brothers. Then he mowed lawns, and he worked at Shakey’s Pizza when he was 15.

• Donna Thompson found her first job in her father’s general store, Knauss Mercantile, in Hannaford, N.D. In later life, she worked in the administration offices at the University of North Dakota for 25 years. But she says the best job was raising her four children.

• Sarah Sand, who operates the Coffee Co. on Columbia Road, started her working career at the Dairy Queen. She’s been at the Coffee Co. for five years. And at the beginning of April, she gave away 2,400 cups of coffee to mark the 20th anniversary of the business.

• Marcia Wehe found her first job cleaning the Vaala Funeral Home in Appleton, Minn. She is a physical therapist and enjoys the work. But her best job is here and now, she says: raising her three children.

• Chad Gilberg found his first job and the most fun changing oil at the former Hansen Ford in Grand Forks. Now, he is a business development manager for Steamatic.

• William Huot, a Grand Forks County Extension agent, found his first job working as a welder when he was right out of high school in Red Wing, Minn. The best job ever for him is here and now. He has worked 37 years in the county Extension service.

• Sandy Slater began working in Christmas sales for the J.C. Penney store at Kenosha, Wis. She is retired from her best job ever as director of special collections at UND Chester Fritz Library. She said she enjoyed the job so much she would almost have done it for free.

• Mark Sanford’s best job was serving as superintendent of the Grand Forks Public Schools. He started out working in his parents’ Super Valu grocery store in Watford City, N.D., when he was in sixth grade. One of the most interesting jobs he had was when he was a math major at Minot State working in field measuring of acreage for the U.S. Agricultural Department in McKenzie County.

Reach Marilyn Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or (701) 772-1055.