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Warmka honored for years of service

Commissioner chairs last meeting after 20 years on the board

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Dec 20, 2020

Outgoing Faribault County Commissioner Tom Warmka is greeted by well-wishers creating an arch of flags for him to walk through as he leaves the courthouse. Warmka, an Army veteran, served 20 years on the County Board and was known for his leadership and for taking time to listen to other people’s viewpoints.

When Faribault County Board chairman Tom Warmka struck the gavel to officially adjourn the commissioners meeting on Dec. 15, it marked the end of 20 years of service to the county in that capacity.

“I was the youngest commissioner when I was first elected and the oldest when I left,” Warmka says.

Though the meeting was over, the accolades and show of support for Warmka were just beginning.

“The first time I came to a commissioners meeting I knew you were a force to be reckoned with,” commissioner Tom Loveall states. “Your priorities were clear, you defended your positions well and remained true to your ideals.”

Shortly after the meeting ended Central Services director Lexi Scholten entered the meeting chambers and presented Warmka with gifts on behalf of the county employees.

One gift was a personalized poster with the word Leadership printed in large letters.

It said “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

“I think almost every county employee signed it,” Scholten told Warmka. “The only ones who did not sign it were quarantined with COVID.”

Warmka explains how he became a commissioner.

“I always have had a desire to be involved,” he shared. “When I got out of the Army I joined the local elevator board. I learned a great deal about how a cooperative operates and then I just kept getting involved in other organizations over the years.”

It was former commissioner Gordy Benson who, upon deciding to retire, got in touch with Warmka and urged the Easton native to run.

“Those were awfully big shoes to fill,” Warmka says. “During my time as a commissioner I have had the honor and privilege to serve with 14 other county commissioners, three different county attorneys, four assessors, two auditors and two highway engineers.”

He says he is amazed at how time flew by.

“I never planned on serving this long,” he shares.

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz remembered the night he (Groskreutz) was first elected to the County Board.

“Tom was the first person to call me,” Groskreutz remembers. “I recall him congratulating me and telling me it is a fast learning curve.”

Warmka said one of the most memorable accomplishments during his tenure was the building of the Law Enforcement Center.

“It took a lot of time. The public had a perception we were going to abandon the courthouse,” he says. “We had to battle many misconceptions but we got it done. It has turned out well and the cost was 52 cents per acre of agriculture land at the time we did it.”

Commissioner John Roper added his thoughts on the retiring commissioner.

“Like commissioner Groskreutz, Tom was also the first one to call me when I was initially elected,” Roper comments. “I looked up to him as a mentor and appreciate the voice he gave farmers. We owe him thanks for his service.”

Warmka explains his philosophy for serving on the board.

“I have always tried to be approachable and to listen,” he states. “Then we can figure out if we can or cannot do something and come to a decision.”

Warmka says there is a definite area of his job as commissioner he has enjoyed the most.

“I love working with farmers on drainage,” he comments. “It can be difficult at times but it has been my favorite part of the job.”

Another perk of the job is all of the wonderful people he has gotten to know, according to the retiring commissioner.

“I have become acquainted with many fine people from this area but have also made many friends from being a member of the Association of Minnesota Counties,” Warmka notes. “One of my good friends is a county commissioner who is from the opposite end of the state in International Falls.”

He says his involvement on committees and in organizations would not have been possible without the support of his wife, Cheryl.

“When I had meetings that kept me away from the farm she is the one who kept things going,” Warmka says. “She made it possible for me to be involved.”

And, according to one commissioner, Warmka should keep his phone handy.

“We are still going to count on you for some advice,” commissioner Greg Young said. “We are going to miss you.”

He says he does plan to stay in touch but now that he has sons involved in the farming operation he has some other plans in mind.”

“I plan to do some traveling with Cheryl,” Warmka says, smiling. “And I am going to spend some more time with my grandchildren.”

Warmka was greeted with one more surprise as he left the building for the last time as a commissioner.

County employees lined both sides of a side walk and held up small flags to create an arch for Warmka to walk through as the people wished him well.

Then he received two more parting gifts, a Purple Heart parking sign and a glass sculpture of an eagle with the following inscription: With honor and gratitude for your many years of service and dedication.

It also included a quote by Richard Gilder which reads, “Better than honor and glory, and history’s iron pen, was the thought of duty done and the love of his fellow-men.”

Finally it stated what so many of his colleagues and friends had expressed to him during the day. “Thank you for all you have done, for so many.”