It is a position – the role of overseeing planning and zoning, veterans affairs, and welfare for Clay County -- that requires wearing several hats, but Drew Gunderson believes he is up for the challenge. Gunderson recently took over as Clay County’s administrator in these three areas, replacing Cynthia Aden, who retired after many years in the job.
“I see this position as a chance to use the different skill sets I have put together over the years,” said Gunderson. “Overall, I feel it is a great opportunity!”
Gunderson, a graduate of USD, spent three years in the Army. After graduation, he worked for the military as an analyst and an instructor. He’s also helped with his parents’ farm, has worked on rental houses, and was an employee in the Union County Register of Deeds office, so he brings a variety of diverse experiences to his new position.
“I’ve dealt with planning and zoning issues with different things we have done on our family farm,” said Gunderson. “I understand how important it is to address those issues appropriately.”
In his first few weeks working for Clay County, Gunderson has mostly been fielding questions and doing research in his role as county planning and zoning administrator. He’s also been updating the technology in the office.
In his role as veterans services officer, meanwhile, he is wading through paperwork and trying to get the word out about all the services available to local veterans.
“[The role of Veterans Services Officer] is a much more technically difficult role because of all the VA paperwork,” he explains. “But it’s a role with great support from other VSOs and the State of South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs. … I know there has been a reluctance among many younger veterans to apply for Veterans Services. I understand that. I was the same way when I got out. But there are benefits out there, besides monetary, that can help a veteran or their family. So, if you are a veteran or know one that could make use of those services, please feel free to call or stop by my office.”
As county welfare officer, Gunderson is also trying to get the word out to those in need in the community that he is there to help in whatever way possible.
“It is an important role for the community, but is somewhat limited by State law and funding resources,” he said.
Wearing the three hats makes for interesting and diverse work days, said Gunderson.
“So far, no day has been like another,” he said. “Just about every time the phone rings or somebody walks in the door, there been some unique issue that must be worked through. And I really enjoy that process. For the veterans service officer job, helping fellow veterans is rewarding. But also hearing about their experiences has been fun.”
Working with his colleagues in the courthouse is also rewarding, said Gunderson.
“Genuinely, everyone in the courthouse, the planning and zoning board, and the county commission has been very helpful in getting me setup,” he said. “Also, a special thanks to Cynthia Aden for all her help as well.”