The small, tightknit community of Deephaven is stunned by the sudden death of Mayor Paul Skrede, who was found dead in his home last week after the city administrator called the police chief to do a welfare check.
"I think all of us are numb about it," Chief Cory Johnson said. "I'm still numb because he was not only my boss, but a friend."
Skrede, 75, was found on the floor of his Azure Road home Tuesday, but he could have been dead for as long as a week. Some sort of cardiac event caused the death and there was no indication of foul play, Johnson said.
Skrede was incredibly active and a big golfer known to leave town to hit the greens. Some thought he was in Wisconsin for the Ryder Cup golf competition.
"All indications pointed toward him being healthy, so this was a shock to all of us," Johnson said. "He had a lot of things to do that he was working on and things to get accomplished."
City Administrator Dana Young said he last saw Skrede at the Sept. 20 City Council meeting. The next day, Young said he e-mailed and called the mayor but never heard back from him, which wasn't concerning at first. Young went away for a week and when he returned to the small, quiet City Hall along Lake Minnetonka's Carson Bay on Sept. 28, the mayor still had not responded to his e-mails.
"That's very unusual for Paul," Young said. "I started to get a little bit concerned at that time."
Johnson said his office received the call from Young and officers went to Skrede's home shortly after 2:30 p.m. His car was in the garage. The front door was locked. No one answered knocks at the door. Officers entered through the back porch, which was unlocked, and found Skrede, according to the police incident report.
"That's the most difficult part for me, that he was there for a week before we found him," Johnson said.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office went to the home, but family members said an autopsy would not be performed.
Throughout the week, people had stopped by Skrede's home and knocked, too, but no one heard from him, Johnson said. The following week, a couple of thank you signs with notes of condolence were placed in his front yard and his "reserved for mayor" parking sign outside City Hall was adorned with a bouquet of flowers.
Skrede had been living alone since 2007, when his wife, Paula Winter, died unexpectedly at 64. Along with his stepson, Robin Winter, the three moved to Deephaven in 1976, according to Skrede's campaign website.
"We absolutely loved the unique charm and character of the town and we had a lake at one end of the street and a park at the other end," Skrede wrote. "We were golden!"
Funeral arrangements for Skrede are pending.
At a special meeting Monday, the City Council declared the mayor position vacant after Mayor pro tem Steve Erickson struck the gavel in the quaint council chambers. It was only the second time Skrede wasn't present in almost two decades.
"He missed exactly one meeting in his 19 years in city government, and that was a year or so ago for a golf trip," Erickson said.
Skrede was first elected as Deephaven mayor in 2007 and previously served on the council and planning commission. He had 15 months remaining in his two-year term. One of the city's four council members is expected to be appointed to fill the vacancy at the Oct. 18 meeting.
In the 2020 election, three Deephaven businessmen tried to oust Skrede, but their "Save Deephaven" efforts were overwhelmingly shot down by voters, who gave Skrede more than two times as many votes as write-in candidates.
Skrede, a retired investment broker and commercial real estate developer, was widely known in the city. He coached his stepson's baseball team after first moving to Deephaven when he began volunteering to build improvements at Children's Park.
At a recent city event over the summer, Skrede helped a kid search for a lost retainer.
"He was digging in the garbage," Young said, adding that the mayor ultimately found it.
Johnson said his staff and the community are grieving the loss of Skrede, whom he knew for nearly 20 years.
That kind of vacancy can't be easily filled.
"He was a good man, a hard worker, a dynamic personality and just a friend," he said. "He always said, 'We are family here.' "