Employee profile: Kelsey WilkensPublished by emzabinski on Thu, 2013-07-25 15:43
Kelsey Wilkens is a farm girl from Goodridge, Minnesota, a small town 18 miles northeast of Thief River Falls. How small is Goodridge?
“We had 18 students in my graduating class,” explained Kelsey. “The population in town is 182 people, and it is entirely surrounded by fields.
“Every person in my high school class, except for one, came from a farming family,” continued Kelsey. “On our farm we grew soybeans and wheat. If you didn’t work on a farm, you worked at Arctic Cat or Digi-Key, the largest employers in the area. In my case, my dad was a farmer and my mom was a mechanical welder for Arctic Cat. Every family does what they have to do to make a living.”
Like many people who grew up in rural Minnesota, Kelsey believes that a small town was a great place to be from. Pennington County is the only county in the Land of 10,000 Lakes without even one lake. Even though jobs were plentiful in the area, Kelsey left high school to become a dental hygienist. After a year she realized that line of work wasn’t for her. She had worked as a teller at Citizens State Bank in Bemidji and waitressed at local restaurants to pay her way through school. After a year, she and her partner moved to Itasca County, and Kelsey took a job at First National Bank of Coleraine. She started as a teller and then moved into the bookkeeping department. Five years ago her son, Preston, was born.
On her parents’ 36th wedding anniversary a couple of years ago, she received some terrible news. “Ironically, my parents’ 36th wedding anniversary ended up saving my dad’s life,” Kelsey explained. “My dad woke early that day to leave a card for my mom on the kitchen table, but in the process he became oddly disoriented and began knocking pictures off the wall. The commotion awakened my mother; she had no idea what was wrong. Shortly afterwards he had what turned out to be a second stroke; he was only 58.
“After my dad had his stroke, Preston and I moved home to be closer to family and to help out. I took a job as an order management representative at Digi-Key, a Thief River Falls-based distributor of electronic components with $1.5 billion in annual sales.”
This spring Kelsey decided to return to Itasca County so her five-year-old son, Preston, can be closer to his father. She accepted a teller position with Grand Rapids State Bank in April.
“As a teller, I like the personal connections we make with our customers,” said Kelsey. “It’s interesting to see how each of us tellers develops relationships or niches with certain repeat customers. I’m learning to know customers here, and the job becomes more satisfying as time goes on because of that.”
Kelsey and her partner, Tommy, are building a new house near Coleraine that they expect to complete by the end of August. As many people who’ve built houses will confirm, that kind of project can test a couple’s patience. On top of that, Kelsey is pregnant with a daughter whose due date is early December.
“My life is upside down right now,” said Kelsey. “Taking a new job, building a new house, having a baby—all at the same time—isn’t necessarily the best way to do things, but that’s what we’re doing. I’ll get through this, but right now things are a little hectic.
“My coworkers here at GRSB have been welcoming and great, so it’s nice to have a job at a workplace like that.”
Left: Tommy, Kelsey and Preston. Right: Kelsey, Preston and Tommy open a box with pink balloons letting them know the new baby will be a girl.