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Land trust hires Fodroczi as director

Dave Fodroczi started as the new executive director of the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust Nov. 14. Debbie Griffin photo

Former director of the St. Croix County Planning and Zoning department, Dave Fodroczi, made the announcement at a Nov. 1 meeting: He accepted a job as the new executive director of the River Falls-based Kinnickinnic River Land Trust. His first day at the new job was Monday.

"I've always admired the work they have done," said Fodroczi about KRLT.

He confirms that his 21 years of experience in the county's planning and zoning department, as well as the time he worked for the state agricultural department in the Farmland Preservation Program, gives him valuable insight, expertise and connections applicable to his new duties.

He worked with many of the same local communities, government entities, landowners, farmers, DNR officials, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel that also have a "stake" in the Kinnickinnic River, which flows for 22 miles and has a watershed that spans 170 square miles.

The former planning and zoning director was responsible for the regulatory plans of riverways, floodplains and shorelines and is accustomed to the components involved. He managed natural resources and looked broadly at development.

Fodroczi says his experience with administrative operations, budgeting and staffing will help in his new job. He also brings expertise in developing land information systems and presenting them to the public via the Web. He says he is well accustomed to generating awareness and educating the public.

"That was a huge part of the work we did at the county," he said.

Fodroczi led the fast-growing St. Croix County in developing its first comprehensive plan. The major undertaking involves inventorying current conditions and planning for the long-term future, taking into account economics, land use, conservation, agriculture, housing, government operations, utilities, education, transportation and natural and cultural resources.

Winning candidate

KRLT Board President Dan Wilkening said, "We had a very nice candidate pool," adding that KRLT reviewed 18 applications and interviewed eight people.

Wilkening said the board made a point of examining its strategic direction before hiring a new leader so that the person and direction would be well matched. The analysis led the board to place emphatic importance on hiring a local person with roots in the area. He says the board also liked Fodroczi's leadership experience, long-established connections in the community and passion for KRLT's mission.

He and Dale Jorgenson, KRLT's interim director, said the organization will concentrate on the watershed, on water quality and fishery and on proactive, strategic conservation.

Asked how he came to know about the job, Fodroczi said he heard in an early-2011 staff meeting that former KRLT Director Nelson French was leaving to take a job with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. He remembers feeling happy for French but and mildly concerned about the land trust.

About a week later, he began thinking about the vacancy as an opportunity. He watched for news of French's replacement then after about six weeks, got curious and called Wilkening.

The 60-year-old Fodroczi says he introduced himself, shared some details about his qualifications and expressed interest in the position. The hiring process involved submitting an application and resume, a few different interviews -- and plenty of waiting between stages.

Fodroczi said it seemed like a natural transition, and he is looking forward to it.

He lives in Hudson with wife Cindy; the couple has two grown children who graduated from Hudson High School. A native of South Bend, Ind., Fodroczi worked in Madison for the state agricultural department in the Farmland Preservation Program before taking the job with St. Croix County and moving to Hudson in 1990.

He attended West Michigan University and earned a bachelor's degree with a double major in business and environmental studies. Fodroczi followed up as a VISTA volunteer and worked in Benton Harbor, Mich., for a year as an economic development coordinator. Next he enrolled at UW-Madison and earned a master's degree in land resources.

River speaks volumes

Fodroczi said one weekend before his first interview and when his wife was out of town, he spent a Saturday zig-zagging the river and stopping to spend time at each known access point.

Though he knows of the Kinni and has been to it before, he said, "For this, I wanted to know more, see more, feel more."

Near County Road FF, he encountered a father teaching his young son to fish and observed them for a short while. Just below the dam at the Glen Park canoe landing, he encountered a group of enthusiastic kayakers taking off.

Not far from them was a "classic" fly fisherman; Fodroczi watched him work the line and maneuver into what he presumed was a strategic position. It struck him when the rubber-clad man got to spot and fished out an old can.

Later in the day along the upper Kinni, he observed another dad with his toddler son, who helped his dad by "looking for bait" along the riverbanks.

He not only saw most parts of the Kinni but also learned "what the river means."

The new KRLT director says he likes to canoe and fish but he admits he isn't an experienced fly fisherman. Fodroczi says he hopes to find a patient mentor who will teach him all about it.

Asked what he thinks will be challenging and enjoyable about the new job, Fodroczi says although he is accustomed to applying for and managing grants from a public-sector perspective, he suspects doing that same work in the private sector will be challenging.

"I'm excited about doing that," he said, adding that he looks forward to working with KRLT's development committee and that often a private conservancy can work with landowners in a way that a public entity cannot.

And about what he predicts he'll like best, the new KRLT director says, "I plan to enjoy it all!"