I was born January 19, 1969 at the U.S. Army hospital in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. My mother moved me back to St. Paul, Minnesota, shortly thereafter, where I stayed until college. My younger brother was born in 1972 and a sister followed seven years later. I started kindergarten at Linwood Elementary in St. Paul in 1974 and attended classes there until the school closed after my fourth grade. I attended Randolph Heights Elementary for fifth and sixth grades, followed by Ramsey Junior High School and St. Paul Central High School.
My parents worked for the same companies for 30+ years: my father with New York Life Insurance Company and my mother with Northwest Airlines. Both retired and my dad still lives in the same house in the Crocus Hill neighborhood of St. Paul where I was raised (my mom passed away on December 22, 2017). My first job was working part-time at the local Knowlan’s grocery store on Grand Avenue, where I worked all through high school. After receiving my driver’s license, I also worked late nights at the Target store in Roseville (the old Store #1).
My mother’s occupation allowed us to travel throughout my lifetime. Strangely enough, we always seemed to go to the same places over and over again. Southern California and Florida (Disneyland and Walt Disney World, respectively) were common destinations. I started ski lessons at age nine with my uncle in northern Idaho, which became a spring ritual for more than 20 years. Family friends in Atlanta provided for several trips to Dixie, including the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville. My uncle and grandparents followed with a trip to the 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver. After high school, I made my first trip to the east coast, visiting friends going to college in Boston and Hanover, New Hampshire.
My pre-college education covered a wide range of interests. In junior high, I was a member of the debate team and arrived early each morning to play with the brand new Apple II computers. This was also the start of my German language studies, which continued through high school and college. In high school, I focused on advanced placement classes in science and mathematics, but also had a fondness for history. I took more than eight semesters of history and created my own independent study on the history of classical music.
High school was also the time I discovered organized athletics. I lettered in three sports: cross-country, track and alpine skiing. The cross-country meets were three miles in length and held at Como Park in St. Paul. My track event was the 800 meters, which I ran in about 2:12. True alpine skiing in Minnesota is difficult to find and our meets at Birch Park were nothing compared to races in the west. Collegiate sports were much more advanced than I was prepared for, but skiing and running are sports that I still love to this day. I’ve completed twenty-seven marathons so far: Twin Cities (1995, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013), Grandma’s (1997, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017), Walt Disney World (2000, 2009, 2013, 2014), Chicago (2003), Eau Claire (2010), Fargo (2012), New York City (2014) and Des Moines (2015).
During my senior year of high school, I applied to only four colleges: Harvard, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy. I received a letter of nomination from my congressman for the Naval Academy, but did not make the final cut. RPI offered me a position in their mathematics program, but the cost was prohibitive and I could not attend. At the last minute, I applied to the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks (UND). My intention was to study aerospace engineering and become a licensed pilot through a new training academy there that was partially funded by Northwest Airlines.
I started my studies at UND in the fall of 1987 and quickly disliked the experience. My high school sweetheart, who would become my wife, was attending classes at St. Cloud State University. Using my mother’s flight benefits, I flew home every weekend to be with my girlfriend. A shortage of housing at UND meant I started college living in a hotel room for several months (the free donuts were a plus, though). When dorm space finally opened up, I had to share a room with four other people. Two of them were hockey players and both ended up playing in the NHL (Murray Baron and Neil Eisenhut).
My future wife and I both disliked our college choices and we elected to transfer to the University of Wisconsin at Madison our sophomore year. She studied communications and I studied finance and management. I lived in my own apartment for most of the three years and worked as a games room supervisor in the student union. It was a very fun job that involved inventory tracking, ordering, cash management, bowling alley maintenance and lots of pool, ping pong and video game “training.”
During a winter break from college, I worked in the “Sons and Daughters” program at Northwest Airlines. It was a paid internship program for children of employees that was discontinued shortly after my last year of eligibility. As a temporary stores clerk, I was assigned the task of identifying all obsolete Republic Airlines inventory and disposing of it. I also worked two additional summers in the program, the first as a passenger refunds clerk and the second as a freight credit clerk. The former job involved researching international lost ticket claims, while the latter dealt with mailing invoices and retrieving copies of disputed shipments.
I graduated from Madison in 1991 and moved back to St. Paul with my girlfriend. We lived in downtown St. Paul at Galtier Plaza and became engaged shortly thereafter. She went to work full-time at her former summer job with Knox Lumber in St. Paul, while I was offered my old clerk job in the freight credit department at Northwest Airlines. There was a management hiring freeze in place at the time, but I wanted to continue to receive flight benefits and get my foot in the door. I started the day after graduation as a new accounts coordinator for freight credit.
That year became very busy. My fiancée and I were planning a May 1992 wedding at the Como Conservatory in St. Paul. I took a second job in the evenings working as a student loan collector in downtown St. Paul. On December 14, 1991, we went to the courthouse in St. Paul and eloped. With my wife’s new flight benefits, we left that day for Disneyland. It took our parents a few years to recover, but it was worth it.
The next year we moved to an apartment in Eagan, Minnesota. I quit the student loan job and became a commercial collector at Northwest. I decided to return to school at night and earn a Masters degree. I enrolled in the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, originally with an accounting focus. After several introductory courses, I changed my concentration to management information systems.
While studying for my MBA, I was promoted into management at Northwest, becoming one of the company’s youngest managers at age 24. As Manager, General Credit, I was responsible for a staff of seven and multiple general ledger accounts totaling more than half a billion dollars. I became a department technical resource as well, helping with computer troubleshooting and writing several database reporting systems. One was used to track employee returned checks, while another was used as monthly documentation for a receivables financing deal involving millions of dollars in receivables (which I named after the infamous Roman emperor Nero: Northwest Economic Recovery Offensive).
With no children and no mortgage payment, my wife and I took the opportunity to travel the world. We took trips to London (multiple times), Paris, Vienna, Singapore, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Alaska and San Francisco. Business trips took me to London, New York, New Jersey, Tokyo, Chicago and Washington, D.C. I continued my annual ski trips to Schweitzer in Idaho and finally took a real ski trip to Colorado. Live music at venues such as First Avenue in Minneapolis was also a passion during this period.
After a few more years of renting, we started house shopping. We decided to build a new townhouse in Eagan, about two miles from our old apartment. It was a great experience and cost a lot less than we were paying for rent. The townhouse was a little small, but was perfect for two people. My wife changed jobs and started working for the Catholic Aid Association, a fraternal life insurance company located in Arden Hills, Minnesota (now Catholic United Financial). I finished my MBA and started looking for a new job that had more of a systems focus.
In September 1996, I was offered the position of technology specialist with the fuel department at Northwest. This department was basically a company within a company and I reported directly to the president. The job was like running my own IT department for a small business: many hats for many different duties. Tasks ranged from purchasing and installations to training, system administration and disaster recovery. The department was recognized as one of the best airline fuel departments in the world.
A few years later, the duties of my boss were expanded to include several other areas. At the same time, I was recruited by a major advertising agency in downtown Minneapolis to become the manager of their server farm. The environment there was incredible and I was ready to turn in my resignation to Northwest. Then the unusual happened: Northwest countered with a large offer and promotion in title. I became a senior technology specialist and remained with the department for several more years. My duties expanded to match those of my boss and I supported the graphics, corporate communications and purchasing departments in addition to the fuel area.
During this time, I traveled to various trade shows and conferences as a representative of Northwest: Comdex, MacWorld, Seybold and the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. I also became active in intranet design and was asked to join a corporate-wide intranet advisory council. The intranet site for the fuel department was one of the best in the company and was used as a model for other departments.
Shortly before the birth of our first child, I founded a new media development company called Golden Links Publishing. My intent was to find something I could work on part-time that would combine my interests of golf, photography and technology. I started playing golf later in life, but quickly became engrossed. My plan was to create the ultimate pictorial guide to Minnesota golf courses. After two years of research, design and photography, a retail CD-ROM called Minnesota Golden Links was released at the 1999 Great Minnesota Golf Show in Minneapolis.
Sales of the CD were not as high as I had hoped and steep production costs meant there would be no further CD editions. We looked at our existing library of photographs (which had grown to almost 10,000 images), along with our database of information, and decided to re-purpose the media for the Internet. In 1999, average Internet connection speeds were too slow to display the large, high-resolution pictures found on the CD. By 2000, faster speeds and better file compression allowed us to successfully launch GoldenLinksGolf.com in time for the 2000 golf season. With course profiles for more than 350 courses, it became very popular and traffic grew throughout the season.
Despite the growth in viewership, on-line advertising revenue was nearly non-existent. For the 2001 season, I elected to continue adding features to the site, while lowering expenses as much as possible. Tournament coverage, profiles of western Wisconsin courses, regional golf news and a hole in one registry were all very well received and traffic continued to grow. Efforts to secure a site sponsor to underwrite operating expenses faltered, however, and the site was shut down in February 2002. The site files were purchased later in the year by the owner of TwinCitiesGolf.com and were incorporated into that site.
While never a money earner, the Golden Links Publishing experience proved valuable in other ways. I learned tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator and photographed many beautiful parts of the state (using digital and 35mm equipment). I made many contacts throughout the industry and raised my profile through publication of my photographs in several newspapers. I licensed my work to top courses, including Interlachen Country Club, Hazeltine National Golf Club, TPC Twin Cities and Legends Club. I volunteered web design time to the annual Tapemark Charity Pro-Am tournament held at Southview Country Club in West St. Paul for 16 years. Golden Links Publishing also led to several small business consulting contracts involving web design and network troubleshooting.
After the birth of our first child, our traveling dropped off significantly. We started to focus on trips within the state and annual events, such as the Minnesota State Fair. I have attended every state fair since I was born and it remains one of my favorite places to go. The list of food goes on forever and takes a larger bankroll every year: pronto pups, onion rings, corn on the cob, cheese curds, vanilla shakes, mini-donuts, Sweet Martha cookies and macaroni and cheese on a stick.
The North Shore of Lake Superior has been a family destination for more than forty years. My parents rented the same cabin outside of Grand Marais, Minnesota, every summer. We love the area – Duluth, Two Harbors, Lutsen and Grand Portage all have fun things to do and see. Grand Marais always provides a relaxing break from the stress (and allergies) of the Twin Cities.
My wife left the Catholic Aid Association and moved to United Hospital in St. Paul shortly before the birth of our second child. We sold our townhouse and built a new two-story house in Eagan about a mile away from our old house. The building process went smoothly again, despite a hundred year storm that flooded the newly poured foundation with about four feet of water.
In 2001, the airline industry started to reach one of its low cycles again and my boss of five years was let go, along with a number of other very good people. After September 11, further cuts were looming and I starting looking for a new position. I was recruited by a division of the maintenance organization and accepted the position of Manager, Line Maintenance Automation. I quickly learned several free development tools (Apache, PHP and MySQL) and began developing low-cost, dynamic Web sites.
My projects included a real-time aircraft maintenance reporting system, on-line video training for mechanics, an on-line parts tracking system for the Pacific, reporting of inoperable equipment by aircraft, fuel on board reporting, on-line manual access and an aircraft damage reporting system. I also developed a new project tracking system so that all stakeholders could monitor progress of their projects from any web browser. Despite the favorable reaction to all of these projects, the desire to cut costs finally caught up to me in August 2002, and my nearly eleven-year career with Northwest Airlines came to an end.
My post-Northwest years began by taking my old company, Golden Links Publishing, and renaming it 7 Minute Miles, Inc. I began technology consulting with several clients and was offered a full-time position with one of them in the summer of 2003. I joined Studio 4 Enterprises in St. Paul as Managing Director/Technology Specialist, responsible primarily for the day-to-day technology operations of a small charter school called the High School for Recording Arts (HSRA).
I designed a new web-based student management information system for HSRA that continues to evolve with new functionality each year. With grant funding, I helped HSRA obtain and install new technology infrastructure, including a modern phone system, wiring upgrades, improved internet access and additional servers for mail and internet services.
In late 2004, Studio 4 focused on expanding their services beyond HSRA. A major investment in server hardware was made in early 2005 and placed in a data center in Seattle. I hired two employees to work for me and my title changed to Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Studio 4. We signed a contract in 2007 with a charter school in Los Angeles that became HSRA LA and I traveled about once a month to California.
Things started to change at work in 2008: my two employees left for other jobs, the school in California didn’t work out as planned and I decided it was time to leave HSRA at the end of the 2008-09 school year to try something new.
On August 28, 2009, I started a new company called 7 Minute Miles, LLC, that specialized in web publishing and technology consulting. After about a month, I met Charles Edge of 318, Inc. at an Apple Consultants Network meeting and decided to join his firm as a technology consultant. While working for 318, I assisted clients from across the country and traveled often, visiting California, Colorado, Arizona, Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin. These projects included server installations, system imaging, mass deployments, web server administration and remote systems support.
After six months, an opportunity arose in northern Minnesota that was too good to pass up. Fortune Bay Resort Casino on beautiful Lake Vermilion had an opening for an IT director. I applied, interviewed and was offered the job the next day. My new gaming career officially began on July 12, 2010. I did one last job for 318 in Arizona that summer before starting full time at Fortune Bay.
Learning the casino and hospitality world was fascinating. The resort had 173 hotel rooms, a marina, RV park, pool, arcade, buffet, steakhouse, deli, Tim Hortons Cafe & Bake Shop and one of the best golf courses in the country. The Bois Forte tribe has a development corporation that owns several other businesses in addition to the resort, including a radio station in Ely (WELY) and convenience stores in Tower and Nett Lake. The casino had ten blackjack tables, a poker room and approximately 777 slot machines.
Managing the IT department in this organization was a great learning experience. Several of the larger systems used were unique to the industry (Oasis), while others were common among hotels (Opera) and restaurants (Micros). When I first arrived, bandwidth and power reliability were major concerns. While the latter is still a concern, there are now high-speed fiber lines to that remote location that have improved things drastically. I built another private intranet to capture organizational knowledge and amassed a huge library of scanned marketing materials from properties in Minnesota and other jurisdictions in the United States.
Visiting and studying other casino resorts was one of my favorite learning exercises. I loved seeing how different properties compared, what games they chose, how they designed their casino floor, what promotions they used to attract players and what other amenities they offered guests. I was also lucky enough to attend many different industry trade events, including the Global Gaming Expo (G2E), the Indian Gaming Tradeshow (NIGA), iGaming North America and user conferences for Oasis and Micros. Some of these events move around, so I was able to visit new casinos in Nevada, California, Missouri and Arizona (in addition to Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas and Wisconsin).
Since Fortune Bay was a mid-size property, I was able to assist with many non-IT areas that I also found very rewarding, including live concert production, marketing, restaurant operations and the many different aspects of running a top 100 golf course. With my finance and business background, I also liked looking at slot analysis, budgeting and strategic planning. In addition, I served on the Technology Advisory Council at Hibbing Community College as a way to help with recruiting in a challenging job market.
We hosted many live music events during my tenure at Fortune Bay, both inside and outside. The Woodlands Ballroom only had a capacity of around 350 people, so the types of acts you could book and still make money was somewhat limited. We did have some very memorable people play that venue, though, including Air Supply, The Guess Who, Bret Michaels, Glen Campbell and Travis Tritt. During the summer, we would have concerts in the golf course parking lot, which could hold around 5,000 fans. ZZ Top was my favorite outdoor show, but others included Alabama with Marshall Tucker, John Fogerty, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Larry the Cable Guy, Gordon Lightfoot, Hank Williams, Jr., Goo Goo Dolls, Heart (outdoor tent in the winter with BÖC) and the infamous Sail Rock 2013 (Christopher Cross, Orleans, Al Stewart, Firefall, John Ford Coley and Player). Good times.
During my tenure in Tower, the rest of the family stayed in the Twin Cities. We sold the house and moved a few miles away, back into a smaller three-bedroom townhouse. It was so nice to not mow lawns and shovel driveways again. We also had a heated underground parking spot, a clubhouse with an exercise room and an outdoor pool. It was within walking distance of many stores and [chain] restaurants and I had a whole new set of running routes to follow on weekends.
While I loved working at the resort, I spent way too many hours on the road commuting back and forth between Lake Vermilion and the Twin Cities. I burned out a Mini Cooper and bought a Honda Fit (that I also proceeded to burn out). It was a three and a half hour drive (in good weather) and I usually left early on Monday mornings and returned late on Thursday nights. I stayed at many different places during my five-plus years in the Northland: the hotel, a house owned by the resort, a rented house at the other end of the lake and at a friend’s cabin on Birch Point (eternal thank you to Mary and Alex).
I missed the family during the week and I wanted to be around for the final years of high school for both kids. I started applying for jobs back in the Twin Cities and it came down to two choices, an established Minneapolis software company or the new stadium being constructed for the Minnesota Vikings. I accepted the position of director of IT at U.S. Bank Stadium and it was time to return home. My last day at Fortune Bay was October 28, 2015.
Working at the stadium has been quite an adventure. When I joined the team on November 2, the building didn’t have a complete roof, the lower bowl wasn’t finished and the field was still dirt. This job has really consisted of two phases: pre-opening project management, followed by a transition to building operator after the doors opened to the public. Our first event was a soccer match between A.C. Milan and Chelsea, which was made even more unique by the fact that we had to provide a real turf playing surface above our permanent artificial surface.
We’ve since followed that opening event with three full Vikings seasons, Super Bowl LII, the Final Four, multiple concerts, the Summer X Games, four Monster Jams, two Super Cross events, lots of state high school soccer and football games, college baseball, the U.S. women’s national soccer team match versus Switzerland, several large trade shows and countless smaller meetings and events in our club and concourse spaces. Concert highlights for me include U2 with Beck, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Coldplay, Beyonce with Jay-Z and Taylor Swift.
The job is very challenging, as I only have one full-time colleague to support the whole operation. The stadium is owed by the state through the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority (MSFA). They hired the company I work for (SMG) to operate and market the facility on their behalf. The Minnesota Vikings are the primary tenant, but they are only in the building ten days a year (unless things go exceedingly well on the football field).
My two-person IT group manages the network infrastructure, WiFi, telephones, IPTV and all office technologies. We also help support broadcast operations and assist partners Aramark and MainGate with the systems that run merchandise and F&B sales. With the help of a stellar part-time game day crew, we also manage ticket scanning and premium areas (suites and clubs). With a data center, 62 wiring closets, 200 switches, 9000 ports, 1200 wireless access points, 700 telephones, 2200 TVs, 200 workstations and laptops, 850 iOS devices and 450 security cameras, there is never a dull moment.
Since starting at the stadium, I’ve had the chance to do a little business travel again. I’ve attended two Cisco events, one in San Francisco and one in Las Vegas. The SMG stadium headquarters is in New Orleans and I was able to attend and shadow a Monday Night Football game at the Superdome before we had our first football game. We visited Levi Stadium in San Jose to watch a soccer match and see the command center that was used for Super Bowl L. We also traveled to Houston to see the preparations for Super Bowl LI and to Phoenix to witness the entire Final Four operation from start to finish.
It’s also been fun to meet all of the other sports venue people in town. We started an informal sports technology group with members from the Twins, Timberwolves, Wild and Vikings, along with the Mall of America and the airport (who both use similar technologies). Each of us have hosted events at the various venues and work to improve communication with our key vendors on future road maps and planning. Congrats, in particular, to the Target Center people on their nice remodel (much of which was done by the amazing people at AmpThink).
My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in 2016 with a trip to Victoria, British Columbia and took a post-Super Bowl trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles. We’ve also been taking frequent “staycations” to Mystic Lake, where I’ve won my first two taxable jackpots (I love you, Black Orchid). Their annual Rib Fest has become a family favorite and I still love the golf course and assorted restaurants.
In March of 2017, we decided 24 years in the suburbs was enough and headed back to the city where we both grew up, St. Paul. I’ve always wanted to live in a loft and we struck gold when we discovered the Rayette building in Lowertown. I was already in love with Tim Niver’s wonderful Saint Dinette, which is located on the first floor. Their burger is what I’d order for my last meal on Earth and the thought of having that available just by walking downstairs was a huge selling point. We lucked out with the perfect unit available at the right time (and at the right price).
It has 13-foot ceilings, exposed brick, cement floors, two bedrooms and more square footage than we had in the Eagan townhouse. There is a rooftop patio, amazing exercise room, a beautiful party room with pool table, heated underground parking and a great building manager. The Union Depot green line station is a block in one direction, the Saints stadium is a block in the other direction and we are right next to the Farmers Market and Mears Park. The Mississippi River and its biking/running trails are nearby and I can easily walk to Xcel for hockey games, concerts at the Palace or groceries at the new Lunds & Byerlys. Tim McKee’s new Octo Fishbar and Market House Collaborative is right across the street (kid one helped open Octo before switching over to Saint Dinette). Kid two has worked off and on across the other street at Big River Pizza. We dropped down to one car, upgraded to a new Honda Civic sedan and bought a metro pass so I can take the train to and from the stadium.
Since moving back to the Twin Cities, I’ve been lucky to experience the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, attend a whole lot of concerts and eat out way more than anyone should. Combined with the stress of the stadium, my overall fitness level isn’t quite where I’d like. My last attempted marathon (Grandma’s 2017) was a total disaster and I had my first DNF while attempting the Superior 50 Miler in 2016. No long races planned in the foreseeable future, but I’d like to eventually get back to it at some point. This is 7 Minute Miles, after all…
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