During his 35-year career in state government and at the University of Minnesota, Vilis “Vic” Vikmanis was the go-to person for budget questions.
“He was sought after by high-level people on the basis of his accomplishments,” said David Berg, a retired University of Minnesota health systems administrator.
The positions Vikmanis held over the course of his career included budget analyst for the Minnesota Department of Administration and for the state’s legislative staff; coordinator in the governor’s office; cost containment consultant at the university, and assistant vice president for the U’s Health Services.
“Vic would have projects going all through the colleges and University Hospital,” Berg said. “He was never much for focus groups or formal meetings. Rather, he’d more likely be walking around, meeting others, a bit like a doctor on rounds.”
Vikmanis, of Edina, who retired from the university in 1998, died of complications from lymphoma on March 22. He was 81.
“I do know that the merit of [his career] is that the work of the university went along well and good all through his much-appreciated presence,” Berg said.
Vikmanis was born Dec. 3, 1938, in Riga, Latvia. During the last six months of World War II, with the Russian Army approaching, his family was relocated to a small town in Germany. From the fall of 1945 until 1950, the family lived in a displaced persons camp near Frankfurt, Germany.
In 1950, the family immigrated to the United States, landing in New York and traveling immediately to St. Paul, where the family’s sponsor lived.
Vikmanis graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1961 with a degree in political science. After one year of graduate studies, he first interned and then went to work full time in 1963 in the Minnesota Department of Civil Service.
In 1966, he joined the state’s Department of Administration’s Budget Division. And in 1969, he joined the staff of the House Appropriations Committee as a fiscal analyst.
In that position, he reviewed the budgets of the three postsecondary education systems in the state — vocational, community college and state college/University of Minnesota. During that time he also was a budget liaison between the Legislature and the university. One of the highlights of his career came during that period.
In 1971, in his role as liaison, he was instrumental in development of the U’s Rural Physician Associate Program. The Legislature was persuaded to allocate $455,000 for the pioneering program, which places third- and fourth-year medical students with physicians in rural Minnesota. The nine-month program has more than 1,500 alumni.
“That was his most important project,” Berg said.
In 1980, Vikmanis became the coordinator of executive affairs for Gov. Al Quie. In January 1983, at the end of Quie’s term, he became a full-time consultant to the university’s cost containment task force.
The next year, he was named an assistant vice president in the Health Sciences Department. He also joined the university hospital’s Board of Governors. He held both of those positions until he retired.
“He was very smart and always fair,” Berg said. “He usually appeared to have things well thought out before times of meeting people to make decisions.”
Vikmanis is survived by his wife, Aija; two daughters, Valda and Velta; a brother, Val, and two grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.