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Afton hires two new city consultants

The Afton City Council has ended its relationship with both SEH and Jensen, Bell, Converse and Erickson PA when the council hired two two consultants, city attorney and city engineer, at a recent special meeting.

Frederic W. "Fritz" Knaak of Knaak & Kantrud P.A.. will be replacing Mitch Converse as city attorney, whereas Diane Hankee of WSB & Associates will be replacing John Perotti.

Knaak is currently the city attorney in Newport and Hankee is the city engineer for Grant.

Knaak and Hankee made their first public appearance at the April 21 council meeting.

"We jumped right in with both feet," Knaak said.

The idea to advertise for the consultant positions -- city administrator, city attorney, city engineer and city planner -- was first brought to the council by Mayor Pat Snyder at its 2009 goal setting session as a way to save money. The council directed staff to advertise for the positions at its February meeting.

Neither of the new consultants are strangers to rural areas, so they may fit right in with Afton.

"My preference is smaller communities because frankly we can help them more as lawyers," Knaak said. "I feel motivated to do my very best for this community."

Knaak will be celebrating his thirtieth year as a practicing attorney this year and he feels that his experience will help Afton navigate through their current problems. It's no secret that Afton has had some legal trouble over the last year, but Knaak believes that he is up to the challenge.

"I am nervous about coming in middle, but that's part of the challenge," he said. "But the reality is that when you get a change like this it is the thing you need to help settle things down a bit."

Even though Knaak already has his work cut out for him in Afton, he is not too worried about being able to facilitate the city through everything because he is optimistic that resolutions can be reached.

"These issues are not unusual or daunting," he said. "Afton faces many of the same issues that other communities share.

"It's not going to be easy, but it certainly is solvable."

Knaak said he will do his very best to make sure that Afton doesn't have to go through the same types of things under his watch.

"I really like this city, it's a beautiful community," he said. "We're going to make the council aware what problems could be and give the council a lot of information -- we're going to do everything we can do."

Hankee also has an extensive career in engineering, she has over ten years experience working as a city engineer for various cities.

"Working with Afton gives me the opportunity to interact directly with residents and businesses while meeting the needs of the city," she said. "I'm looking forward to listening, learning, and turning those lessons into successful solutions for everyone."

Hankee said she knows that city engineering has its fair share of challenges, as does coming into a new environment, but she hopes to earn people's trust and support through interactions and problem solving.

She said she will do her very best at offering all of the options available in a clear and open manner and offer advice to reach decisions.

"I'm anticipating that my relationship with the city of Afton will be a great success for both sides," she said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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