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Loy finishes another chapter of public service

Carlton SWCD Supervisor H. Merrill Loy (left) takes a forest walk with longest serving Carlton SWCD employee Kelly Smith. Loy recently stepped down after serving 20 years as a Carlton County SWCD supervisor. Special to the Pine Journal1 / 4
H. Merrill Loy2 / 4
H. Merrill Loy (left) hands his father, Hubert Loy, his first retirement check, circa 1969, as Merrill’s brother, Bill, watches. All three men were in the Navy, all starting out as recruits and ending as Lieutenant Commanders (Mustang). Special to the Pine Journal3 / 4
H. Merrill Loy is pictured here with his extended family at Big Lake in 2015. Special to the Pine Journal4 / 4

Public service ... serving the public ... working for the good of the people. Many people work in public service, from politicians to government agency employees, from those in the military to county road crews, from teachers to locally-elected officials on city councils or Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) boards.

Some people even consider public service their "calling" and devote their lives to serving others. One such person is H. Merrill Loy of Carlton who, along with his brother William (Bill), learned about and followed their father into public service.

Loy was born in Laurel, Neb., and grew up as a Navy "brat," moving to different locations around the country with his father, Hubert Loy, who spent 30 years in the Navy. After retiring, his father continued in public service as a professor and the director of student teaching at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Like father, like sons.... Loy also served in the U.S. Navy (24 years reserve and active duty) and as a math and science teacher (10-plus years) in schools in the Duluth area. Loy's brother, Bill, also served in the Navy for 30 years and then as a professor and the head of the Geography Department at the University of Oregon. In fact, when Loy's father retired from the Navy, father and sons were all Lieutenant Commanders in the Navy. When Loy himself retired, he was the commanding officer for three different Naval Reserve Training Stations.

And now some of Loy's family have followed in their footsteps into public service. Loy's son, Jon, is a music teacher and head of the music department in Worthington, Minn. His son, Michael (now deceased), was a professor at Minot State University in North Dakota. One of Loy's grandchildren, Eric, is finishing up his doctorate in English in Rochester, N.Y., with plans on teaching in a university. His other grandson, Phillip, is an electrical engineer in Fargo, N.D., and his granddaughter, Heather, also works in Fargo in the Human Resources Department of a large company.

And as the saying, "like attracts like," Loy's first wife and mother of his children, Nancy (now deceased), also served as an elementary teacher in Duluth area schools. His current wife, Lynn, was a farm girl.

Outside of his public service work and raising a family, Loy said, "I've always had something going!" He served as a Boy Scout leader for many years, raising his sons in the program. In fact, Loy, his brother, his father, and his sons all worked to become Eagle Scouts. In addition, Loy was a beef farmer in rural Cloquet for many years, flew as a commercial pilot, and lived in more states than most people ever visit.

Recently, Loy retired from another public service calling. In October, he was honored by the Carlton County SWCD for serving over 20 years as an SWCD supervisor representing District 2 (six years) and District 3 (14 1/2 years).

Through his 20 years at Carlton SWCD, Loy served in all of the SWCD offices at least once, on all standing committees at least once, and on many special committees as needed. He used his vast experience, skills, knowledge, attention to detail, and commitment to improvement to help lead and make Carlton SWCD one of the more active and successful boards in Minnesota, thus improving SWCD service to Carlton County landowners and residents.

When Loy was first elected, SWCD staff consisted of one technician and one clerk who did everything. As a long-time member of the personnel committee, Loy says he made it a priority for the SWCD to acquire staff who "work well together as a team" and "help each other with what's needed."

"We are so fortunate to have a great caliber of staff experience and knowledge!" he added.

Loy has also seen great changes in the types of programs and funding that the SWCD offers to Carlton County landowners. Back in the 1990s, most programs were geared to assisting farmers with farm and/or forestry management plans and helping them acquire long-term funding from federal agencies. Now, the SWCD offers assistance to all county landowners, including township and county governments, with a wide range of projects to improve everything from agriculture to forests, streams and lakes to wetlands, etc. Loy appreciates that the SWCD can help with any conservation planning for farmers, rural landowners, and city dwellers, and he notes that urban forestry is getting increasing popular as "forestry isn't just out in the woods!"

One of Loy's favorite SWCD projects, one in which he took an active interest, was in developing a wonderful 40-acre Carlton school forest. He called himself an "instigator" who came up with ideas and helped to implement them by working with a "great group of people," including the school superintendent and principal, as well as many teachers and students.

A shrewd money manager, Loy always made it an SWCD priority to find funds to help landowners reach their goals. One funding mechanism is Carlton SWCD's very-low-interest, revolving agricultural loan program that has helped county landowners accomplish projects like repairing and replacing septic systems, sealing old wells, repairing shoreland, improving farm infrastructure, purchasing logging equipment, etc. Starting with a $250,000 funding pool from the Minnesota Agricultural Department (MDA), Loy praised Cornerstone State Bank, Cloquet, as an expert manager of this fund and called the bank the SWCD's biggest supporter in the area.

Loy has also been instrumental in working with SWCD committees that have made great changes in SWCD service. As part of the finance committee for many years, he worked to develop a good budget to attract great staff who will stay for many years, as well as to offer a wide variety of programs and services to Carlton landowners and to fund many conservation projects in the county. As a long-time policy committee member, Loy has been a key player in taking the policy handbook from the simple documents of early years to the finely-crafted, multi-paged policy binders that guide supervisors and staff today. And in his work with the facilities committee, his business and money-management skills helped greatly in bringing the SWCD from the small inadequate offices of early years to the spacious, well-maintained office unit that staff now call "home."

Besides his local Carlton SWCD work, Loy has many years of involvement in several other SWCD area- and state-wide committees and groups. He represented the SWCD board on the Lake Superior Association, the Joint Powers Board, the Technical Services Association (TSA 3), and the Carlton County Water Plan Committee.

In addition, he was an Area 3 SWCD Association officer for many years and a representative to the Minnesota Association of SWCDs (MASWCD), where he served on the MASWCD's finance and awards committees. He was also a founding member of the MN SWCD Forestry Association. Through his many years of work with these groups, Loy has helped push for improvements in joint powers agreements, area reorganization, financial accountability, insurance coverage, legislative lobbying, etc.

One of his most memorable experiences was being Minnesota's representative for five years on the National Association of Conservation District's (NACD) Great Lakes Committee. He was honored to have been chosen to speak about Nemadji River Watershed erosion at the 2000 Great Lakes Symposium in Toledo, Ohio, sponsored by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) and the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Of top importance, he said he appreciated all he learned about "how to get all of our ducks in a row to get Great Lakes funding" for Carlton SWCD projects.

So, as of October, another segment of Loy's public service is at an end. What advice does he have for Joe Lambert, who has been chosen to replace him as SWCD supervisor for Carlton SWCD Area 3, and, indeed, for anyone considering working in public service? "Dedication is most important," he emphasized but also added that you should "enjoy doing what you're doing." He advises you to start by learning the system and learning from history and then work together as a team to be productive in and for your organization.

According to Brad Matlack, Carlton SWCD manager, Merrill will be greatly missed.

"He has served in every capacity the SWCD has," said Matlack, "giving him a vast knowledge of the issues facing SWCDs."

Matlack adds his sincere thanks to Merrill for his devotion to the Carlton SWCD and its staff, for his knowledge and experience, and for sharing in this journey. Well-deserved honor and thanks for a public service job well done.