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Court Administrator to retire at end of month

Just in case anyone was waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop,” it just did.

On the heels of the retirement of Sixth District Judge Dale Wolf after 26 years on the bench, Carlton County Court Administrator Judy Isaacson announced she, too, will retire April 30.  

“I wanted to wait until Judge Wolf’s festivities were completed,” Isaacson said.

Isaacson took the oath as Carlton County’s new court administrator in April 2007, but by then she had already been with the county for several years. She initially started working in July 1977 for Clerk of Court Stuart Beck, later moving to the court’s misdemeanor traffic division and also working with the juvenile files for a time.

In 1986, co-worker Dorothy Marana retired from her position as probate registrar, so Isaacson applied and was sworn in to that position by Judge Dale Wolf.

Isaacson decided to go back to school to earn her college degree after her children were older, starting at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in 2001 and earning her four-year degree in 2006 as part of a Concordia University cohort that met in Duluth, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in organizational management and communications.

“I always knew the court administrator position required a four-year degree, and since Bruce [Ahlgren] was older than I was, I knew eventually he would be retiring,” Isaacson recalled. “I thought to myself that I’d only had one boss throughout my lifetime, and I was afraid who might come in and take over after he left. I decided maybe I could do that job myself, since I had tried to actively become involved in all the areas of the court.”

Ahlgren officially put in his retirement notice in 2007. Isaacson applied for the position, interviewed and officially took the oath of office as court administrator on April 2.

“It’s as though I’ve almost completed the full circle, coming in at the bottom and then taking it step by step by step to the top,” she reflected at the time.

Since then, Isaacson has been honored by the Minnesota Association for Court Management (MACM) with its 2012 Excellence in Courts award for her work on the improvement of the psychological services process and her excellent service to the Probate Division.

Isaacson has taken on districtwide responsibility for the process of appointing examiners. She has developed a system that all Sixth Judicial District employees can use in the process of appointment and payment of court examiners.

In addition to Isaacson’s work on psychological services, she also took over the supervision of the St. Louis County Probate Division.

Now, as Isaacson prepares to round the bend into retirement, she said the search has begun for her replacement. The Sixth District Bench, which consists of the 16 judges in St. Louis, Carlton, Lake and Cook counties, is the decision-making body charged with making that determination.  

“They decide on the administrative structure of the Sixth District and decide on who is hired to fill the court administration positions within the District,” explained Isaacson. “At this time, it has not been decided who will be replacing me.”

According to Chief Judge Shaun Floerke of the Sixth Judicial District,St. Louis County Court Administrator Amy Turnquist, who oversees the operations in Duluth, Virginia, and Hibbing, will be acting as the interim Carlton County court administrator until a final decision has been made on Isaacson’s replacement.

“Amy is a very competent and talented individual with a vast amount of experience and knowledge,” said Floerke. “Prior to accepting the position in St. Louis County, she was the court administrator in Cass and Beltrami counties and has held other various positions in the Minnesota Judicial Branch during her career.”  

A coffee party at the Carlton County Courthouse is planned in Isaacson’s honor from 2-4 p.m Friday, May 2. The party will then continue at Trapper Pete’s from 5-9 p.m. with appetizers being served. Both events are open to the public.

Isaacson said though she is sorry to say goodbye to her co-workers at the courthouse and in the court system, she is looking forward to retirement.

“Since Minnesota summers are so beautiful, I intend to enjoy the weather and activities that Minnesota has to offer this year,” said Isaacson. “I intend to spend more time with my family, grandkids and friends. No big plans just yet — I would like to do some extensive traveling throughout the United States in the future.”

Isaacson reflected on her work with the county at the time she took the oath as court administrator and she said she has gained much from it.

“It’s been a great job,” she mused. “I’ve been able to have the flexibility to work and raise a family. You don’t always find that in a lot of places. I had a boss who encouraged me to do other things and expand my wings. I’ve been very, very fortunate.”