Former Ramsey County Commissioner Don Salverda given lifetime achievement award

Former Ramsey County Commissioner Jan Wiessner, Don Salverda and current Ramsey County Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire pose for a photo at Salverda’s Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony for community service. Salverda was a mentor to both Wiessner and McGuire. (Photo courtesy of Gayland Bender)
Former Ramsey County Commissioner Jan Wiessner, Don Salverda and current Ramsey County Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire pose for a photo at Salverda’s Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony for community service. Salverda was a mentor to both Wiessner and McGuire. (Photo courtesy of Gayland Bender)
An undated photo of Don Salverda. (submitted photo)
An undated photo of Don Salverda. (submitted photo)

‘Unsung difference-maker who works behind the scenes’

A “servant leader.” That’s how former Sen. Dave Durenberger described his friend Don Salverda, who was honored May 19 with the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award — a beautiful eagle trophy — from the Sales and Marketing Executives of Minneapolis/St. More than 70 friends and colleagues attended.

“It was a wonderful night for Don,” Loren Swanson, a Rotary Club member from Falcon Heights, said of the 79-year-old former Ramsey County Commissioner and Roseville resident.

“He is a nice, thoughtful, well-organized person,” Swanson said. “Many of his friends, clients and members of various civic organizations attended to show their respect and high regard for Salverda and the appreciation they have for his contributions over the past decades.”

Salverda’s interest in community service dates back to his teen years when he won first place in state and ninth place nationally in the Jaycees’ teen safe driving contests, which included driving skills and knowledge as well as a personal interview. He then joined the Roseville Jaycees to learn about the business world.

After earning a degree in mechanical engineering, Salverda began working at Standard Oil as a sales representative in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he joined the local Jaycees and greatly increased the number of participants in that club’s safe driving competition.

He was a successful salesman at Standard Oil and  was promoted to the regional office back in Roseville.

Salverda rejoined the Roseville Jaycees and was local president when Loni Anderson was Miss Roseville and plans were started for the development of Central Park. He held state outreach positions to increase both participation and the stature of the organization. His Jaycee era ended in 1968 when he failed a second time to be elected state president, a position he prized.

Changing gears

That same year, Salverda became involved with motivation programs for business executives through the Success Motivation Institute, an international organization that encourages people to achieve their full potential, and found that he enjoyed motivating people to do more with their lives.

In 1974, when his father retired from the Ramsey County Board, Salverda was elected to the position a year later, where he served for 18 years. He helped set up professional management for the county, something he’s proud of — many said previously, cronyism ruled — and he held many public meetings to teach citizens the workings of the Ramsey County Board.

He served as president of the Association of Minnesota Counties, Sales and Marketing Executives and the Roseville Chamber of Commerce, and he was a founding member of the Gavel Club, which brought together community leaders to improve communication and cooperation between their organizations. He also joined the Roseville Rotary Club in 1978 and continues to be an active member.

Working with Roseville, New Brighton and Shoreview-Arden Hills Rotary Clubs, Salverda started the DARE program to help kids learn to avoid drugs — to practice resistance techniques and learn the debilitating consequences of drug use — and develop healthy relationships with local police.

For several years he helped organized the DARE Bike-a-thon, in which kids and their friends and families in the Mounds View and Roseville school districts bicycle around Shoreview and ended with a picnic at Island Lake Park to raise money for the program. He rode along to encourage the kids.

Developing leaders

After he left the county board at the end of 1992, Salverda pursued his career in leadership, developing and leading training programs for city councils or police departments, including those in Maplewood, Lake Elmo, Stillwater and Delano through his company, Donald Salverda and Associates.

Roseville’s city manager Pat Trudgeon is a member of one of Salverda’s leadership groups and said, “Don has been a great mentor for me both professionally and personally. He is such a positive and inspiring person — you can’t help feel energized after talking to him.

“Don is one of those unsung difference makers who works behind the scenes, so I was glad to see him recognized,” Trudgeon said.

Julie Wearn, CEO of the Roseville Visitors Center, said, “Every person who spoke about him that night said that Don is a down-to-earth, honest-to-goodness, genuine guy with a passion for service to others.”

“I am sure what he does in the Roseville Rotary Leadership Book Discussion Group he does with all of his groups — shows up fully prepared, has a flip chart outline, engages everyone in the group and follows up with a hand-written note telling participants how much he appreciates their input,” Wearn added.

Salverda was a mentor to the current Ramsey County Commissioner for District 2, Mary Jo McGuire, who said, “Since my election to the county board, I’ve come to rely on him for his wise counsel and support. He’s the best mentor that I could ask for and he has become a true friend. Don is a master at connecting.”

Fun and adventure

“Don always loves to have fun and is full of adventure,” Gayland Bender, a Rotarian from Shoreview said, adding that he has been Alpine skiing many times with Salverda and has observed he is always looking out for others and helping less-accomplished skiers down the hill with words of encouragement.

“He is a voracious reader, repeatedly says, ‘Leaders are Readers,’ and he is a wonderful leader in many areas of life,” Bender added. ”He is also a cherished personal friend, along with his wife Bonnie.”

Craig Waldron, former Roseville community development director, said he re-connected with Salverda when Salverda was doing leadership programs for local government staff members. At a banquet, he told the audience that Salverda is the smartest person he knows on leadership, as well as quite a good biker.

“When we did the Ironman event,” Waldron said, “I was left for dead, [exhausted] at the side of the road, as Don cheerfully and effortlessly biked to the finish line.”

Pam O’Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7818.

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