3 employees retire after decades long careers with Wadena County

Building services department employee Greg Malone, University of Minnesota Extension office manager Bunni Olson and Public Health director Cindy Pederson received plaques at the Feb. 1 board meeting.

A row of county people with plaques.
Wadena County commissioners congratulated University of Minnesota Extension office manager Bunni Olson, building services department employee Greg Malone and Public Health director Cindy Pederson for their years with the county. They are retiring as of February 2022.
Contributed / Ryan Odden / Wadena County

WADENA — A series of long careers for Wadena County employees are closing out with retirements in February. Building services department employee Greg Malone, University of Minnesota Extension office manager Bunni Olson and Public Health director Cindy Pederson received plaques at the Feb. 1 board meeting.

With 27 years in maintenance, Malone worked at the Human Services building amongst his many roles in the county. Several employees shared how they are sad to see him leave.

As new department leaders together, county coordinator Ryan Odden highlighted Pederson’s successes of additional grant funding and leading through the COVID-19 pandemic. She has worked with the county for 31 years with the health and safety of residents as the main focus.

Over her 35 years, Olson ran many county fairs and helped hundreds of 4-H students through a momentous event of their lives. She also answers horticulture questions as a Master Gardener.

“It’s great for these employees that they were able to have a career at the county and see themselves to retirement, that’s a good goal,” said commissioner Bill Stearns. “Congratulations and good luck.”


“I am a gardener so that was an interest to me, love working with the kids and the thing with extension it’s not just this every day’s the same. Every day is different, all year long,” said Bunni Olson, University of Minnesota Extension office manager for Wadena County for 35 years.

County fairgrounds maintenance

After moving a decision on a county fair maintenance cost to the Feb. 1 meeting, there was no change. Auditor-treasurer Heather Olson recommended utilizing fair maintenance funds from 2021 instead of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the project. The project added water and sewer to the Beer Garden in fall 2021.

The board originally approved the use of ARPA funds in November . In order to approve the change, the motion would need to be made by commissioners Mike Weyer and Stearns, who made the motion in November. Both Weyer and Stearns were not in favor of changing the funds from ARPA to the maintenance fund. A question on if other commissioners could rescind the original motion was unclear as it is not in the board operating rules.

The fair’s maintenance fund was established about eight years ago as part of yearly allocations. Organizations like Old Wadena and the Wadena City Library also receive allocations, which are set in the budget process. Olson explained the fair’s funds are reimbursed based on receipts, which is different than other allocations and has caused conflict in the past. Unused funds are rolled into the general fund, though the board can approve unused allocations for future use.

The fair board spent $5,000 of the maintenance fund in 2020 and 2021, according to Olson. The cost of materials and available contractors impacted completing projects in 2021, Weyer noted.

The fair board has a list of projects, including repairing buildings. Odden and commissioner Sheldon Monson noted past encouragements for the fair board to make a project list with costs.

Now that the cheese curds are eaten, the rides are taken down and the Wadena County Fair is over, it's time to start thinking about its future. As we've reported over the last few weeks, the buildings in the fairgrounds are in rough shape. Maybe ...

About 20 years ago, the buildings at the fairgrounds were in “dire shape” and “the place just looked like hell,” Stearns remarked. With the fairgrounds as part of his district, Stearns proposed $250,000 over 10 years to help with maintenance costs.

“When we get done everybody’s going to look around and they’re going to say, ‘Where’d you spend the money on?’ because maintenance is not a pretty thing,” Stearns said. Many of the problem buildings were destroyed in the 2010 tornado.


Commissioners noted maintenance projects should be worked on yearly.

The board also discussed:

  • Setting legislative priorities to discuss with legislators when some commissioners attend the Association of Minnesota Counties conference. Redistricting is also in process following the 2020 Census.
  • The 2021 planning and zoning report presented by director Deana Malone. After a “record year” in 2020 with camping due to the pandemic, some areas are down due to the drought. The full report is available on the county website. A few of the highlights include:
    • 211 total permits issued
    • 16 new home construction permits, which are fairly spread throughout the county
    • 105 septic systems permitted. Malone added this is exciting as the county’s septic system compliance is 85%, which is above the state average of 82%. 
    • Tree Farm Landing work was paused with the Line 3 pipeline project.
    • 271 passport applications and 211 renewals. This public service receives a lot of positive feedback, as Malone said. Passport services are at the county courthouse at 415 S Jefferson Street, Room 234, Wadena.
Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in feature reporting as well as enhancing online articles. Readers can reach Rebecca at 507-285-7681 or
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