by April Scheinoha
He’s the soft-spoken man behind the cameras, ensuring that the public has an eye on the inner workings of the Thief River Falls City Council meetings. Barry Froiland, city employee, retired Tuesday, April 26.
The timing was right for Froiland, who said he couldn’t stay forever. That’s not to say he won’t miss his job. Froiland said, “I really like coming to work.”
He will especially miss the people with whom he has worked. “We have a lot of smart employees that can solve pretty much anything that comes up,” said Froiland, who added that he appreciates the support he has received from council members.
Froiland will also miss serving on the Northern Municipal Power Agency Board. He served as an advisor and later as a director on the board. The NMPA provides power to the city in a joint system with Minnkota.
During his retirement, Froiland plans to travel with his wife, Susan. They have purchased a second home in Arizona, where their son Taylor lives. They have three other adult children, Reid, Dane and Marah.
It was the end of a long career for Froiland, who retired as the city’s management information system director/billing manager. A reception was held Friday, April 22 in his honor at the Thief River Falls City Hall.
At their meeting three days earlier, council members thanked Froiland for his years of service. The crowd of Froiland’s family and fellow city employees applauded.
Froiland started his career in the city’s billing office April 1, 1974. He holds an accounting and data processing degree from Bemidji State University.
As part of Froiland’s initial duties, his job also included paying the city’s bills. As the years have gone by, Froiland’s job has evolved. Minnkota formerly processed Thief River Falls’ municipal utility bills. When the city switched to processing its own customer bills, Froiland helped with the changeover. It took one year.
Froiland was also involved in the recent transition to Advanced Meter Infrastructure, which allows the Electric and Water Systems departments to remotely access meters. He said that project was completed after one-and-a-half years.
Froiland said the billing office has already seen the positive aspects of the AMI. He noted that the office can immediately tell if something is wrong. Employees are also able to access meter readings, helping customers determine why their bills may be higher in a particular month.
In 2010, Froiland’s duties grew to include recording City Council meetings. He was the man in the back of the council chambers, controlling multiple cameras and ensuring that the public could see and hear the council meetings when they were later televised.
As his job title noted, Froiland was also in charge of the city’s computers. He assisted city employees and council members with their technology needs. “I won’t miss some of the heavier computer problems when people are sitting and waiting for you to perform. That’s pressure,” he said.
Froiland also assisted council members who needed to learn how to use iPads after the city switched to a paperless method of providing council agenda packets. His efforts weren’t forgotten at the council meeting as Council Member Jerald Brown shared his appreciation of Froiland’s help. Brown, a former city employee, said, “I also worked with Barry, and he was a great person to work with.”