PRIMGHAR—After more than 60 years of enjoying O’Brien County’s natural beauty, Brian Schimmer is looking forward to stewarding them further as director of O’Brien County Conservation.
A lifelong O’Brien County resident, Schimmer, who is 61, has worked for the county for almost 14 years.
“I know every inch of these parks,” he said. “I know what needs to be done in the spring to turn all the water on, make sure the bathrooms are all cleaned, everything is working, everything is mowed, everything is picked up. I know what you do all year and what you do all fall to get ready for winter.”
He was hired by former director Terry Boltjes as a park ranger April of 2007. Schimmer later became operations supervisor, overseeing maintenance and upkeep of parks, campgrounds and other park facilities.
When Boltjes retired after a 31-year career with O’Brien County Conservation in November, Schimmer served as interim director until the conservation board hired him as director in January.
Before he worked for the county, Schimmer was a farmer and a plumber, two professions he said have dovetailed nicely to compliment his work with conservation.
“For the farming thing, we do food plots, we seed areas of ground. There are things that overlap,” he said. “As a farmer you fixed a lot of stuff yourself.”
His background in plumbing comes in handy maintaining park facilities and campgrounds, getting them ready for visitors in the summer and keeping them in shape throughout the year.
“My dad used to be a plumber. I learned to carry tools for him, and I use those skills every day,” Schimmer said. “The skills that I developed throughout my life doing all the things that I’ve done have definitely crossed over and helped me immensely in what we do now.”
Although he remains heavily involved with conservation work and management of county land, Schimmer said stepping into the director position means more involvement with administrative tasks he is not used to.
“Anyone will tell you I’m technologically illiterate,” he joked.
Schimmer said he does not have any immediate goals as director but hopes to continue steering O’Brien County Conservation in a positive direction.
“I would just like to take the next six months and just get comfortable in this position and make sure I’m doing things right and doing things the way they’re supposed to be,” Schimmer said. “Make sure we’re hopefully on the right track.”
Part of that work will be providing information to the O’Brien County Conservation Board and O’Brien County residents about options for allowing equestrian access and the construction of bridle trails on county-managed properties.
The conservation board has been considering the issue of equestrian use of county land since September. Horse riders in the county asked the board to lift restrictions against horses on county property and to add bridle trails.
Back and forth between riders and hunters in the county since then has led to some tense discussions. Unforeseen obstacles related to state and federal grants used to purchase some county-managed land raised further obstacles.
Schimmer, who assumed the role of interim director and then director in the midst of the discussions, said there has been a steep learning curve for him to make sure he has the right information for the board and residents. He continues to meet and communicate with riders interested in adding public bridle trails to scout out potential locations.
“We’re trying to make progress; we hope we’re making progress,” Schimmer said. “When you’re dealing with government, it’s best to take it slow because you never know what’s going to happen.
“My goal is to try and make sure that as county conservation we listen to everybody and try to make good decisions based on what we hear from people and how we act on that,” he added. “Even more important than that right now is to try and make sure we have some continuity and make sure we get through the things we’ve had to deal with in the next few months and come out on the other side with everybody just doing a better job.”