by Paul Rignell
When elected officials, staff and the public of Sherburne County welcome Steve Taylor as their new county administrator Monday, Nov. 4, they will be greeting a native of Chicago whose father, too, was born in the Windy City and whose mother came from Stuttgart, Germany.
On the road to completing his master’s degree in public administration through George Washington University, Taylor attended three different high schools in the mid-1970s as his father served in high-ranking military posts that took nominations from the White House.
Teaching first at the University of Chicago and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a Ph.D. in labor relations, Taylor’s father accepted a post as assistant secretary for the Air Force under President Nixon and then was promoted as an assistant secretary of defense (specializing in manpower and reserve affairs) during President Ford’s abbreviated term.
The post required confirmation from the Senate, and Taylor’s father left his command in 1977 when President Carter and the Democratic Party took control.
Taylor says that he does not regret his time in Washington, D.C., which included an undergraduate degree in psychology and economics from GWU before he pursued his master’s.
It was also in the nation’s capital where Taylor met his wife, Patti, with whom he celebrated 24 years of marriage this week. “I met her on a blind date and the rest is history, as they say,” he said.
Taylor began a career that has included mostly public positions with six years in the private sector, serving as a project manager working with cost scheduling control systems for a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin.
He moved into risk and cost assessment roles for the Navy and its $18 billion “Seawolf” nuclear submarine program, he said.
That was in D.C. Though the city had been good for the Taylor couple, they were talking of wanting to raise children and they did not feel they were in the right place. In May 1992 they transferred to Douglas County, Colo., located midway between Denver and Colorado Springs, where Taylor worked for more than six years in budgeting and public works and, lastly, as a manager for fleet and facilities.
He became a senior budget management analyst for the Denver city and county finance department, serving there 18 months before taking a post as director of finance and operations for the Denver library system and its 22 neighborhood branches.
The couple left Colorado for Minnesota with their three young children six years later, and Taylor became assistant county administrator for Carver County, seated in Chaska.
Patti hailed originally from Dubuque, Iowa, and she had a brother living in Woodbury. “She was all for moving to Minnesota,” Taylor said. The couple’s children are now ages 18, 16 and 14, and the older two attend Chanhassen High School.
Taylor completed eight years with Carver County last June, and as for his interest in applying for the lead administrator’s job in Sherburne County, he said any applicant should have at least five years experience in an assistant’s position while eight was even better.
He said he was thrilled to be with Carver County when they established a high-speed, fiber-optic communications system with their cities and townships, schools and hospitals. Through the rest of his work, he became well-versed in issues involving land forfeiture, cell phone service towers, and septic tanks.
Taylor said he has come to prefer working for city and county governments versus the federal government. “You’re closer to people, you’re closer to the community,” he said. “You can make changes more readily and more easily (in local government). Trying to make change at the federal level is like moving a battleship.”
Taylor said he looks forward to working with the Sherburne County Board, department heads and staff, and officials from the cities, townships and economic development authorities.
“I need to meet all of these people and develop some good working relationships with them,” he said of the leaders and public in Elk River, Zimmerman and elsewhere in the county. “I want to support the county board, and give them options and alternatives on how to most effectively use their levy dollars.”
In quiet time away from work, Taylor prefers reading biographies as well as books on business and leadership.
On autumn Sunday afternoons, however, he is more likely to be watching television from his favorite chair. “I absolutely love the NFL,” he said. “I love the Vikings, Broncos and Redskins, not necessarily in that order.”
His own sport has been tennis, which he began playing competitively at age 8. He was a ranked player while in Colorado, based on seedings from the United States Tennis Association, he said – “But then I got old, and I don’t play as much as I used to.”