By Emilie Thiessen, Staff Writer
Adrian Welle vowed to leave Minnesota after graduating from St. Cloud State University with a degree in public administration earlier this year.
The 26-year-old never thought, however, that he would land a job in Upsala, just 40 miles away, or an hour drive, from his hometown of Lastrup.
“I said, for the longest time, I was going to leave when I graduated,” Welle said. “Now everything has kind of changed.”
Welle grew up on a chicken farm with his mother, father, two brothers and one sister in Lastrup, a town of just 104 people. Out of high school, Welle attended Moorhead State University to pursue a degree in business administration, but left after three years. Welle found that business was not his calling.
“I have always been more politically inclined and opinionated — a politician of sorts,” he said.
After returning home to Lastrup, Welle said he thought it would be a great experience to run for city office. So he moved to nearby Pierz where he went to high school, and won a City Council seat. Welle said he believed Pierz needed some younger influence on the Council, and he wanted to address issues that face the younger generations in the area
“The city of Pierz had a huge retirement community, but there was nothing for the younger families moving in to do,” Welle said. “I wanted to represent the younger generation that are moving back to town, and I wanted to find ways to keep them in town.”
Not long after winning a seat on the Pierz City Council, Welle decided to go back to school to get a degree from St. Cloud State University in public administration. He had finally found what he wanted to do, and he thought a solid education would be the best way for him to move forward with his career.
During the first semester of classes, Welle was told he would graduate in the spring of 2012, but because of over-sized credit loads, summer classes and months of hard work, Welle was able to obtain his bachelor’s degree this spring — a full year before the predicted date.
During his final semester, Welle took 25 credits, 16 of which were classroom credits, and nine of which were for his internship with the city of Little Falls from January to May of this year. To pay the bills, Welle also worked at Grand Casino Mille Lacs on the weekend. Welle said he was busy all day, every day.
“It was not a fun five months,” he said, “but it is done, and here I am.”
His previous experience working with the cities of Pierz and Little Falls was a tremendous help for him to get through school, Welle said, even though it meant he didn’t have much time off.
“It made school a lot easier,” he said, “because I kind of had a background.”
As graduation day approached, Welle felt the pressure to find a job. He quickly applied to more than 100 different cities across the United States in hopes of finding a job in city government. Welle received a few responses, but nothing that sparked his serious interest. When Welle least expected it, he came across the job opening in Upsala. When he was offered the job, Welle eagerly accepted, and couldn’t be happier with the decision he made.
“I love it, and I am glad I did it,” he said. “I would have never thought of this at first, but it is where I ended up, and it is a good thing.”
Welle hopes to tackle some of the problems in Upsala that many smaller towns endure, like lack of growth and a tight budget.
“I am a growth person,” he said. “If a community is looking for growth, that is where I want to be.”
Similar to what he has concentrated on in Pierz, Welle wants to make sure the younger people in Upsala are getting their needs met to entice them to stay. Welle said he hopes to get an outdoor basketball court built within the city limits —something the city does not currently have.
“The school doesn’t even have one outside,” he said.
He also hopes to make more rental properties available to younger families who would like to live closer to their aging parents but do not wish to buy.
“There is a lot of potential here,” he said.
For his future, Welle sees state politics as a possible avenue.
“I always say that someday I will run for state office, but I don’t know where, I don’t know when,” he said. “Could be tomorrow, could be 10 years from now. … This position in Upsala will be an experience though — let’s see how it goes. I may move on from here or potentially love it forever and stay on.”