To get an idea of Don Jacobson's legacy in Andover, just look around.

Along with a coterie of longtime city officials, Jacobson presided over a period of big change in a city whose population grew threefold during his three decades in city government.

After 26 years on the City Council, Jacobson attended his last work session Tuesday. He and his wife, Carol, are retiring to their home near Nisswa, Minn.

Along with colleague Mike Knight and the late Ken Orttel, Jacobson presided over the city's transition from junkyard to backyard, as more than 100 acres of automobile landfills were cleaned up along Hanson Boulevard to make way for homes and businesses, including the parcel that now is Andover Station.

"A lot of the people who live here now don't even remember that," he mused.

Jacobson also was part of the group responsible for the city's water treatment plant and the civic center/YMCA.

Knight, who is remaining on the council, said that those projects would not have happened without Jacobson's attention to detail.

"Things like minutes and details of motions ... it was incredible," he said. "He made sure every 't' is crossed and every 'i' is dotted. That's just his personality."

Jacobson won election to another term just last year. Though his family has had the Nisswa house for years, he figured the preparation to move and sell his Andover home -- and time on the market -- would see him through to another election. The house sold in three months.

"But we're ready," he said.

After 26 years on the council and six years before that on the Planning Commission, there are bound to be some disagreements, as when Jacobson and Mayor Mike Gamache clashed on the dismissal of City Administrator John Erar in 2004. The issue led to a lawsuit filed by Erar against the council majority that voted to terminate his employment -- it was dismissed -- and an unsuccessful campaign by Jacobson to challenge Gamache for the mayoral seat.

Gamache said he wishes Jacobson the best.

"We had our differences, but we grew to respect each other," Gamache said. "I thought that was good for the council. ... You always knew that he came to his decisions based on his philosophy. I appreciate that, and I appreciate all the detailed work he did on the council."

The city charter calls for the council to appoint a successor, who will serve until the next general election in November 2012. In choosing a successor, Jacobson said the council needs to ask only one question.

"I was telling the council, when they pick someone to replace me, they should ask the question, what is your philosophy of government, and what should government do and what shouldn't it do?" he said. "That tells me a lot about the person. ... If you know what your philosophy of government is, you know how you'll vote on a lot of issues."

Applications will be accepted at City Hall through the end of the business day on Sept. 9. An information packet will be available on the city's website at or by contacting the city administrator at 763-755-5100. Gamache said the council hopes to reach full strength again in October.

There aren't any big, divisive issues right now, "but you don't know when you'll need a fifth vote," he said.

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409