After more than 30 years in office, Bill Nelsen is retiring from the Baytown Township board and his post as road supervisor. Nelsen was known for fixing problems like potholes himself, instead of calling a contractor.
Nelsen said since he moved to his 40-acre farm in the Baytown area in the 1970s, many of the properties around him have been bought up and redeveloped for housing — leaving his parcel one of the few farms around.
A 1948 Stillwater High School graduate, Nelsen joined the Air National Guard in the Twin Cities and stayed for 35 years before being elected to the Baytown Township board in the early 1980s.
Q: After such a long run, why retire now?
A: Well, I'm 82 years old. I think it's long enough. It's time to let some younger folks take a little interest.
Q: How will this change your daily life?
A: I'll keep on with my little farm here; keep doing what I've been doing. I'll probably attend a few meetings as a spectator or citizen just to see what happens. The big thing is I hope we stay a township. There are always those situations where cities like to take over townships.
Q: How did you get on the board?
A: I really don't know. I paid my $2 and I got elected I guess. It just so happened there weren't many people interested in it. Rarely anybody ran against me, so I kept getting re-elected.
Q: What drove your do-it-yourself attitude?
A: I like to find the simplest ways of doing things. It seems to work out that the simplest and cheapest way is to do it yourself. You can just buy a bag of asphalt at any Fleet Farm, take a couple shovels and drive over that hole with a pickup truck to pack it down. Surprisingly, those repairs would hold up for quite a few years.
Q: What kind of farm do you have?
A: We've got 40 acres, a few head of beef. I used to rent the farm to the south and north, had 30 head at one time. But all those places are filled with houses now. Houses are kind of taking over the land. With the exception of my 40 acres here, we're just about surrounded by residential. Our farm will be that way eventually, too.
Andrew Krammer is a University of Minnesota student journalist on special assignment for the Star Tribune.