The new city administrator just started his new job on May 7.
Chris Holl, who goes by CJ, was the only candidate the hiring committee was interested in bringing forward to the City Council when they interviewed him.
"It didn't matter where I lived at that time, so we moved to Ada and I started a business in town," says Holl.
That business was the first franchise business in the rural county of Norman a Subway. Holl had such success with the one Subway, he went on to manage eight separate Subway locations.
"It was very demanding," recalls Holl. "I hadn't had two weeks off in eight years. Bridgette and I decided at the 10-year mark that we would sell the stores. We did not want to be doing this later in our years at 50 and 60."
Holl says it was this dedication to his local sandwich operations that really peaked his involvement in community and county committees later on.
So much so, in fact, that Holl decided to go back to school to receive a Master's Degree in Public Administration. Holl dedicated his time up in Northern Minnesota between three small cities, which are similar in size to Wells, Ada, Hawley and, his most recent city, Pelican Rapids.
"I was a City Council member in all three cities and acted as EDA?president in Ada while we lived there," he says. "I was involved in many different projects, many different committees, and I feel like that experience will help the city of Wells quite a bit."
He says that being involved in his previous communities has truly helped him see the work that goes into the structure of a small town.
"I don't let the grass grow under my feet," he says, implying that he and his entire family, which includes his wife and his two daughters, Lily and?Daisy, hope to be very involved, and visible, in their new community.
Lily, a ninth grader, and Daisy, a sixth grader, will both be attending United South Central School. And so will Bridgette...as the new Spanish teacher for USC.
"Now, of course, I may be a bit biased, but I feel she is the best Spanish teacher in the state of Minnesota," says Holl. And he certainly could be right. Bridgette Holl teaches all four levels of Spanish, and has even taught AP (advanced placement) Spanish classes in the past.
Pelican Rapids actually has a 40 percent rate of students who do not speak English as their main language, so Bridgette Holl has had a multitude of practice, and education in the realm of Spanish. She's also a previous Knowledge Bowl coach, a Speech coach, and teaches driver's education. That is why she is still up in Pelican Rapids she is finishing up with her students up north before she fully commits her time to that of the USC?School District.
"People will certainly see the Holls around, whether we're personally involved in things or whether my job requires me to be involved. We want to be visible to this community. I want to show them they have someone in town they can talk to and get things done."
Holl says he senses the community of Wells has a solid "bone structure," and has noticed a lot of the folks he has met with already want to continue working on that structure; perhaps develop a little more meat and muscle to the already promising town of Wells.
"I know these folks want to get things done we have a huge summer coming up ahead of us with the industrial park, the work being done on Sixth Street, Third Street and Highway 109. The fact that we have a city which wants to grow was very attractive to me," says Holl.
Back in Hawley, Holl helped the city to develop and build a $31 million concrete plant, and to attract a few more businesses who saw the progress being made in Hawley, like RDO Equipment Company.
"I am very eager to get to know the business owners around the area," says Holl. "I think like a business owner, and I think folks around here will appreciate that. I am very interested in economic development here, and I enjoy being a part of that process. There is a willingness to do these types of projects from Wells. I like that."
He also appreciates the small-town, "can-do" attitude he has already seen. From meeting with Betsy Hermanson, the Wells Depot Museum director, to meeting with City Council members and City Hall staff, Holl has already had a great welcome from the community, and is excited to watch it grow and continue.
"I am not one to direct from the top. I work from the bottom," he says. "I want others to be successful first. We have to have good people in order to see growth and prosperity we have that here."
Holl says he will be working on getting to know what is coming up on his radar and will be prioritizing his work as he moves forward in his transition. He says he is very eager to work with the City Council, as well.
"I sat on their side of the desk once. The City Council members may not always understand the city staff, as they only talk to us once a week, maybe twice, while we are constantly on the beat of things," he says. "But I have a great understanding of that and hope to share the day-to-day business with them in the future. Hopefully, this will be a benefit for not only the council members, but the city, itself."
Holl recalls winning an election over a card draw.
That's right. Holl and his opponent in Pelican Rapids were tied for an open position for the city and, as Minnesota State Statute states, a tie must be determined by chance. So, Holl picked a playing card, as did his opponent. On live public television, Holl carded a queen, while his opponent drew an eight.
When Holl isn't busy being involved in his community, or winning elections by luck of the draw, he and his family have a business known as "Pelican Pete's Pistachios." The family started the smoked pistachio business almost five years ago, and are already present in seven states. But that's another story.
For now, Holl is focused on getting to know the people, businesses and staff members that make up the city of Wells.