"When I started here," Steve Mielke said, "we had one grocery in town. We now we have six, if you count Target and Wal-Mart."

Lakeville's city administrator for the past 10 years saw a town of 49,000 grow to 58,000, with a new police station and a lot more besides.

Start­ing July 21, Miel­ke, 56, will go to work for Dakota County as its physical development director. That means growth and development will once again be his chief focus.

"Lakeville is a high growth community with a lot of construction, a lot of planning for new subdivisions and business ventures,'' Mielke said. "I have a particular interest in the development side of government.''

What attracted him to Lake­ville in 2004 was its position on the growing edge of the metro area where farm fields were giving way to homes and businesses.

"Lakeville is a young community. A lot of what is happening here I got to be a part of.''

But he's especially proud of a collaborative style.

"We have done a process called 'Envision Lakeville' in which we brought in hundreds and hundreds of people to develop a long-range vision for the community. One of the things I think I brought to the community was an expansion of our collaboration efforts."

He didn't get everything done that folks might want — "there is still a desire for more restaurants," he admits, a common suburban lament. But others in the city credit Mielke with improving Lake­ville's organization and encouraging development.

Life Time Fitness, Hasse Arena, Miracle Field, East Lake Community Park, Heritage Center and the Downtown Market Plaza were all built while Mielke was city manager.

Mielke lives in town and was a member of the Lake­ville Chamber of Commerce, helping develop the chamber's landscape and home expo over the years.

Mielke was also an advocate for downtown Lakeville, said Paul Haglund, president of the downtown Lakeville Business Association.

"The day-to-day interaction between the city and ourselves has been very positive. Steve believes in the downtown and he comes to events. Other folks see that,'' Haglund said.

City officials also describe Mielke as instrumental in the reorganization of the Public Works and Police Departments.

As physical development director of the county, Mielke will work with transportation, parks, environmental resources, development and planning.

"Those are some of the areas that I really have an affection for," Mielke said. "The position is going to be such that it's a lot to do with strategic direction of the county."

Mielke plans to continue to live in Lakeville and commute to his office in the county's West Service Center in Apple Valley.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287