Minn. employees seeking work elsewhere

22,000 laid off in shutdown of government

Some state employees have started to look for new jobs, and others are hoping to tough it out by cutting back on expenses. Some state employees have started to look for new jobs, and others are hoping to tough it out by cutting back on expenses. (Andy King/ Reuters)
By Steve Karnowski
Associated Press / July 11, 2011

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ST. PAUL - Kent Mechels spent the last three Christmases away from his family plowing snow off Minnesota roads so people could drive safely. It was a hardship he accepted as part of the job, he said.

But Mechels’s latest sacrifice - getting laid off during a state government shutdown now entering its second week - has him thinking about quitting.

“I’m looking at other state agencies in different states right now. I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life. I may be leaving,’’ said Mechels, a single father from Rochester. “When the state government treats their employees like this, I don’t need to be part of it.’’

Many of the 22,000 public employees out of work in Minnesota’s budget impasse say they will get through the extended layoff by tapping into personal savings, making household spending cuts, and relying on a spouse’s income or unemployment checks.

But others are looking for new jobs, creating the potential for a brain drain that would be one more negative from the nation’s longest state government shutdown in a decade.

Erik Pakieser, an emergency planner for the state transportation department, took to Twitter soon after the shutdown to shop his services for what he hopes could be a better-paying job in the private sector.

The state stands to lose an employee it spent a lot of money training, the St. Anthony Village man said.

“If I get a better job, great. If I don’t, I’m going to get my state job back eventually,’’ he said. “Who knows? Maybe there’s a silver lining in all this.’’

Isaias Petros of Minneapolis works in land management with the Department of Transportation and said he doesn’t have much money saved to get through the shutdown. Though he is single with no children, Petros said he needs at least a temporary job to pay back some student loans.

“I was not ready for this,’’ he said, adding that he was actively looking for “anything’’ that could help him support himself.

Not everyone is job hunting.

Brent Anderson, who manages Whitewater State Park in southeastern Minnesota, has a wife who works and said he simply plans to cut back on expenses.

Anderson is spending more time volunteering at the Goodview Fire Department, catching up on paperwork, and thinking about painting his house trim.

One of the biggest shutdown casualties in Anderson’s family is his teenage daughter. She was scheduled to take her driver’s license test last Tuesday and was excited about getting behind the wheel.

Now she’ll have to wait because the state is not offering driving tests during the shutdown.

“It’s a little disappointment for a 16-year-old,’’ Anderson said.

Jim Ullmer of Crystal, a commercial vehicle inspector for the Department of Public Safety, has been baby-sitting his 18-month-old granddaughter, whom he took to an antishutdown union rally at the Capitol last week.

“We’ve cut back and skipped a lot of things just in preparation,’’ Ullmer said. “Right now I’m just babysitting little Anna. . . . She’s a full-time job and I love doing it, but I’d much rather be out doing my job.’’ top stories on Twitter

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