Harren Gjersik: Award is a reflection of a supportive county

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, December 14, 2023

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Before the Association of Minnesota Counties Annual Conference earlier this month, Mower County Administrator Trish Harren Gjersik had a pretty good idea who would be winning the Joe Ries Excellence in County Management Award.

“Talking about that meeting ahead of time, she said ‘I think Sherburne County is going to get it,’” said Mower County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Ankeny with a laugh. “She never really perked up when the guy kept saying all the accomplishments until he said Roseau County and then she perked up and then she was just in shock.”

“Everybody was congratulating her on being well deserved,” Ankeny added. “It was pretty nice.”

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The Joe Ries Excellence in County Management Award is the preeminent award in her field in Minnesota and serves as a lifetime achievement award.

It’s a recognition by her peers based on past accomplishments, but according to Harren Gjersik, it’s more of a representation of where she works.

“There really is a lid on performance of any county administrator and it is your county board,” Harren Gjersik said. “Fortunately, I have a county board that is very supportive, very proactive. It allows me to do remarkable things in our community from being part of system changes around whether it’s food insecurity, housing — any of those things. Also to be proactive in regard to changing our employee culture.”

At the same time, Harren Gjersik understands what the award means.

“I really never thought I would have received such an award in my lifetime and so it was quite a shock and a surprise and as I said before, I’m humbled and honored.”

Harren Gjersik started as Mower County’s County Administrator in December of 2018. And then, in June of this year, she announced that she would be stepping down to take the same job in Kittson County only to announce in August that she would be staying.

“Since my resignation, it has become overtly clear to me that I have family in Austin …,” Harren said at the time. “There is still work to do.”

For those who work with Harren Gjersik, the award is just further evidence of the work she does for the county.

“I think it’s a huge honor,” Ankeny said. “It’s 87 counties and all the people on that particular board are the administrators. Just on her accomplishments over the years, they went way back to when she worked for these other counties. They’ve looked at how things have changed and how she’s been respected and different things she’s been doing.”