It All Started With an Internship

Hands down, the most impactful experience in my career development journey came in the last quarter of my senior year at St. Cloud State University. It was 1980 and the final requirement for attaining my undergraduate degree in Urban Affairs (now Community Development) was to complete an internship. I had the good fortune of being selected by then Mayor Al Loehr to intern in the St. Cloud Mayor’s Office during the summer of 1980.

However, between the time I was offered the internship and actually started it, Mayor Loehr lost his re-election bid to a newcomer to local politics. In the final hour, Sam Huston submitted his filing to run for Mayor. Sam owned the local Harley Davidson dealership and had never run for elected office. The headline in the newspaper the following day read “Sam Who?” Sam won the election.

That set the stage for an incredible internship experience. I was now an intern in Mayor Huston’s office with his newly appointed administrative aide (a patron and former employee at the Harley shop) as my immediate supervisor. In addition to being up-close-and-personal to substantial shake up in the organization, my tenure as an intern included bearing witness to the highly controversial and contentious debate on a two lane versus four lane 10th Street bridge replacement. Although seemingly more mundane, I was given an assignment to research alternative solid waste disposal for municipal waste. The report I authored helped light the path that ultimately led to the City’s introduction of a recycling program at the household level the following year.

My post-college career path was in financial aid administration and a short stint in the banking industry. But then, seven years after completing my internship in the Mayor’s Office, I was invited to make a return to city hall and fill the position of Administrative Aide in the Mayor’s Office (the position I reported to as an intern). I accepted, and it led to my 13 year tenure as St. Cloud Planning Director followed by nearly 12 years as Sartell City Administrator. For the past 5 years I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving the GSDC as its President.

I have long been an advocate and proponent for offering internships. Over the course of the past 5 years at GSDC, we’ve hosted 10 interns – including three whose home countries are China, Chili and Nigeria - who’ve brought tremendous value to the work of our organization. And in today’s fiercely competitive talent acquisition environment, we know firsthand how internships can be your competitive advantage!

An upcoming July 19 best-practices seminar at SCSU, St. Cloud Total Internship Management Workshop presented by Intern Bridge, will show you how internships can support your talent acquisition efforts, and we encourage you to attend.  Here’s a link to info and registration:  St. Cloud Total Internship Management Workshop.

Professionally, I would not be where I am today had I not had that internship experience 38 years ago.  While a lot has changed since that time, the mutual benefits of internships for students and employers has not.

Patti Gartland

GSDC President

P.S.  Meet our current intern, Alvaro Plachejo , a graduate student in the Applied Economics master’s program at SCSU!

Alvara and Gail cropped.jpg
Posted on June 28, 2018 .