At a special meeting of the Cook County/Grand Marais Joint Economic Development Authority on Friday, March 25, the EDA accepted the recommendation of its golf course committee and voted to offer former Cook County Commissioner Bob Fenwick the newly created manager’s job at Superior National Golf Course at Lutsen.
“We do have a recommendation, that came out on top.”
That’s Mark Sandbo. He’s on the EDA board and is also a member of the five-person golf course advisory committee.
“A lot of it had to do with the management skills, the skill set that this person had,” said Sandbo. “And I’ll say this from the committee’s standpoint; in our estimation, any one of the three would do a good job. But in our final analysis, we did rank Bob Fenwick the highest, and a lot of it had to do with his management skill set that he brings to the table.”
Friday’s special meeting of the EDA was called mainly to hear the golf course committee’s hiring recommendation, and to possibly act on it, but the meeting was not without disagreement. There were two other applicants for the position; Todd Gervais of Grand Marais, and Heath Ekstrom of Lutsen, a current golf course employee.
"We had three very good candidates, that's the most important thing," said Sandbo. "We had three very good candidates. And it's up to the board now to decide."
After Sandbo informed the board that Fenwick was the committee’s top candidate, EDA board member Don Davison moved instead to hire Gervais.
“Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend that we hire Todd Gervais for the position. I’ve known Todd since he was born. He’s a long term member of the community and I think his biggest plus would be community relations. I also like the fact that he’s worked at other golf courses. He’s got the background and education for that. And I also think he doesn’t carry the burden of some of the politics that would go with at least one of the other candidates. That would hurt us, not only with the county board, but with IRR, and Todd doesn’t carry that burden. I heartily endorse and make that motion, to hire him.”
Ensuing discussion revealed that the overriding concern with Gervais is his relative lack of management experience, and Davison’s motion failed, 4 to 2. Davison and Sandbo cast the only two yes votes.
A subsequent motion to hire Fenwick was made by Bob Spry, and passed 4 to 2. Voting yes was Martinson, Greenwood, Spry, and Sandbo. Davison and Littfin voted no.
The EDA’s golf course committee, which has been in existence for a matter of months, is a five person advisory committee. Members include County Commissioner Bruce Martinson, EDA member Mark Sandbo, Lutsen Town Supervisor Marland Hansen, and private citizens Tom Fredeen, and Jim King. King serves as chair of the committee, and he explained some of the reasoning behind the selection of Fenwick.
“We’re not looking to hire another golf pro. We’re not looking to hire another course superintendent. We’re looking to hire someone who can manage money, raise money, and effect the political climate and the political reactions that we need to make this golf course succeed and sustain itself. If we need someone to go down and talk to legislators, if we need someone to hammer on the IRRB people, or state tourism bureau, or whatever, that's the kind of thing we’re looking at here. The daily operation of the golf course? Yes, there could be some changes, but nothing severe.”
The EDA says that it has the funds in the golf course budget to pay for the new position, which was advertised at between $70,000 and $75,000 a year.