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After an early job scare, Solvie celebrates 42 years with Stevens County

Stevens County Chief Deputy Auditor-Treasurer (left), receives a plaque from county Board of Commissioners chair Ron Staples during Solvie's retirement party on Tuesday. Solvie is retiring after 42 years with the office. Photo courtesy Lori Boots.

Kieth Solvie was sure his career was over almost before it got started.

That was 42 years ago.

Solvie, Stevens County Chief Deputy Auditor-Treasurer, will spend his last day on the job Thursday.

County co-workers, friends and family stopped by the courthouse on Tuesday to honor Solvie and send him off into retirement.

"It's almost like family here with all these people," Solvie said. "They've been wonderful to work with."

Solvie was raised on a farm near Cyrus and when he graduated from Cyrus High School in 1967, he enrolled in the office training and accounting program at Alexandria Technical College.

His first job after college was as a linotype operator at the Morris Tribune. While there, he saw an advertisement for a job in the county's Auditor's office.

Solvie applied and got the job on June 16, 1969, working for County Auditor Elmer F. Anderson, who could be a stern boss at times.

"One day when I first started, I asked where they kept the correction fluid," Solvie said. "(Anderson) said, 'We don't make mistakes in this office.' Oh, boy! I thought I might be in trouble. I was thinking, 'How long am I going to last here?' "

Four decades later, Solvie has worked for four auditors and auditor-treasurers: Anderson, Dick Bluth, Mark Meuwissen and current office-holder Neil Wiese.

When he started, Solvie and the staff recorded everything manually in books. Then, the computer age dawned and the changes began.

"I was paranoid," Solvie said. "I didn't think I was going to have anything to do -- the computer will do everything. But now, it's more work."

The duties and workload has become much more complicated and detailed, he said.

Other aspects of the job have changed, too. When Solvie started, the auditor was paid $600 a month.

"What's that today? Nothing?" Solvie said with a laugh.

Solvie, 62, and his wife Pam were married in 1977 and have two children. Daughter Christa, 31, and her husband and three kids live in China on mission work. Son Jonathan, 26, lives in Roseville and is enrolled in school.

Pam, a University of Minnesota, Morris professor, will be starting a new job this fall at Northwestern College in Roseville, and she and Kieth will move this weekend to a home in Blaine.

"At first I didn't know if I could live in the Minneapolis area, being a farm boy," Solvie said. "But the area we live in is really nice. There are wild turkeys in our backyard."

Solvie plans to visit his old stomping grounds, with his mother and other family members still in the area.

He also doesn't have solid plans for retired life but is excited about settling and seeing what direction life takes him.

"I'll find something to keep me busy," he said.