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Oak Grove picks Messelt for president

It took Fargo's Oak Grove Lutheran School officials 10 months to find a new president, it took Bruce Messelt 15 minutes to decide he wanted the job. Messelt, who was named Oak Grove's top administrator Wednesday, said there was a 15-minute stretc...

Bruce Messelt shows off his Oak Grove tie

It took Fargo's Oak Grove Lutheran School officials 10 months to find a new president, it took Bruce Messelt 15 minutes to decide he wanted the job.

Messelt, who was named Oak Grove's top administrator Wednesday, said there was a 15-minute stretch in a tour of the private school where he watched students and teachers interact in the halls. The respect shown by both groups convinced him the school would be a good fit.

"In that little 15-minute window, I was sold," he said.

Messelt, 40, will start at the school July 9. He currently works as Moorhead's city manager.

In addition to creating a new management structure for the school, Messelt wants to move along technology, health and capitol campaign initiatives already approved by the regents.

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"This is going to be an exciting, exciting time," Messelt said during a news conference. "Everything I see here points to success."

Messelt said he wants Oak Grove to become "the premier" education choice for the region. He grew up in Duluth, Minn., and Moorhead, and graduated from Concordia College in 1988.

Messelt emerged as the top applicant from more than 30 candidates who applied for the job since the search for a new president started in July 2006, said Paul Lybeck, chairman of the Board of Regents.

The top requirement was to be a leader who could work with a broad range of groups, including businesses, colleges, students and parents, Lybeck said.

"He showed the gamut," he said. "We believe Bruce has the required leadership skills to take Oak Grove to the next level of excellence."

"I'm really excited about him," said Dean of Students Morgan Forness. "He's a man of vision and passion. The future looks good for Oak Grove."

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said Oak Grove is getting an administrator who can set a vision and build a team.

"They're getting a lot of power there," Voxland said.

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Voxland said he expected to eventually lose Messelt to another city, but realized that because of Messelt's commitment to faith that when the Oak Grove job became available, "I knew I'd lose him at that point."

The Moorhead City Council will review the city manager job profile Monday to see if it needs to be updated before being advertised, Voxland said. He estimated the council will make a decision on who to hire in three to six months.

The Rev. John Andreasen, Oak Grove's president of development and former president, will be at the school through June to help Messelt in the transition period.

"We're very excited about Bruce coming on," Andreasen said. "I think he'll do an incredible job."

Andreasen and Darwin Gorder, vice president and former longtime principal, both submitted resignations recently to make way for a new president.

Before becoming city manager in Moorhead, Messelt was an assistant to the city manager for Tucson, Ariz., and a senior policy and program analyst for the office of the Secretary of Defense.

He is also an adjunct faculty member at Concordia College and Minnesota State University Moorhead.

He and his wife, Terri, have three daughters.

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Oak Grove has 407 students in two campuses in Fargo. The school is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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