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Wendy Reuer, Published August 28 2013

Former Clay County Administrator Vijay Sethi dies at age 68

MOORHEAD – Former Clay County Administrator Vijay Sethi died Tuesday of lung disease complications at age 68.

Sethi’s immune system was weakened after years of fighting off the effects of pulmonary fibrosis. He became ill and his wife, Mary Clare, took him to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, where pneumonia claimed his life.

“We did know (pulmonary fibrosis) was going to shorten his life, but it wasn’t supposed to be this short,” Mary Clare Sethi said Wednesday.

Sethi grew up in New Delhi, India, and moved to the United States in March 1970. He earned a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and completed an extra year of study to earn a master’s degree in urban and regional planning.

Sethi was hired as Clay County coordinator in 1985 after 10 years with the county in other positions. The coordinator post was changed to administrator in 1999.

Clay County commissioners Jon Evert and Kevin Campbell said Sethi was extraordinary at his job.

“Our entire commission really enjoyed working with Vijay,” Campbell said Wednesday. “Overall, I’m going to remember him for his good work at the county, and his dedication.”

Whether it was soothing both sides of a disagreement or dulling the ache of budget cuts, commissioners and staff said Sethi had a diplomatic style and personality that put all at ease.

Sheriff Bill Bergquist said Sethi helped him transition to the post when he was first elected.

“He was a great man; he helped me a lot,” Bergquist said.

Sethi retired as Clay County administrator in late 2010 but was asked to serve as interim chief executive officer of the American Red Cross North Dakota-Western Minnesota region.

“He loved what he did. He loved public service. He knew he wasn’t going to get rich that way, but he found the work very, very fulfilling,” Mary Clare Sethi said.

Sethi’s communication and people skills were so highly regarded that Nobles County, Minn., sought his help in February 2012. Commissioners asked Sethi to serve as interim administrator after an investigation was launched into claims that the former administrator created an adverse work environment.

Evert, who recommended Sethi to then-Nobles County Commissioner David Benson, said Nobles County was impressed by Sethi.

“He came in trouble- shooting and as far as I have heard from commissioners there, he did an excellent job of bringing people together,” Evert said.

The couple have two children: a daughter, Kiran Tesch, of Fargo, and a son, Arjun Seth, who lives in Roseville, Minn.

Wright Funeral Home in Moorhead is handling the funeral arrangements. Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Moorhead.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530