Erik Skogquist was born and raised in Anoka, Minnesota, a town of almost 20,000 people on the northern suburban outskirts of Minneapolis. He earned a Political Science and Urban Studies degree from the University of Minnesota. Erik returned to his hometown when he decided to serve his community and raise a family in the town he loved and valued. He appraises and assesses properties in the Anoka area and actively volunteers in the community with his wife, Amanda, also a native of Anoka. Together they volunteer in a formidable array of community functions: On the PTO, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, T-ball, and various civic boards. Erik Skogquist followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Bjorn, who was elected mayor of Anoka at the age of 22, to run for office. Erik currently serves on the City Council of Anoka.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I love that local government really helps solve problems and makes people’s lives better. It is everything from your police department to your streets, your parks, and your schools. Everything you deal with daily is right there. I love that if there’s a problem, someone can call me, and we can quickly try to come to a resolution. It doesn’t take forever. That does not apply to every issue, obviously, but for most issues it’s definitely possible.
For instance, if there is a call about speeding in a neighborhood or something in a park that’s damaged, we can increase police presence or send out maintenance to get it fixed. It may seem small but to somebody in our city it’s important.
What keeps you motivated?
I’ve always been a fairly self-motivated person. It’s all about getting a job done. If I make up my mind to get a job done, I’ll keep my mind on it and be persistent. I don’t know if I inherited that from my mother, but it’s all about not leaving something half done. Get it all the way done and move on to the next thing. It drives me crazy if I leave something partially done. Of course, it has to be done right so you won’t have to think about it anymore and you can move on to the next job.
How do you motivate others?
Allow people to be more creative. Instruct them about what the result needs to be but do not tell them exactly how it needs to be done. It allows them to use whatever self-motivation they must get the job done. If the result is there and everything in-between works out okay, I don’t need to be a nitpicker or micro-manager. Others have a little flexibility to get that job done how they see fit.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My brother. He is five years older than me and seeing what he had gone through when he became mayor of Anoka at the age of 22 was a good experience for me. He was younger than I was when I first took office. There were a lot of positive things but also a lot of negativity that came down on him when he was in office because he was so young, but he withstood it. I think in the long run, I’ve started to notice all the good that came from that. He created a lot of positive things that maybe didn’t happen when he was in office, but over time many of his ideas became reality when others adopted them, and they were successful. He worked really hard in a tough spot, but I appreciate what he did. That’s common with older siblings: You watch what they do, the good and the bad, and you emulate them.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
It’s always tricky, especially nowadays because it’s so easy to get distracted with everything coming up on your phone. I hate to say it, but I think my wife helps me a lot when I pick up the phone at dinner. It’s such an easy trap to fall into, but if she gives me a glare or makes a comment, it helps me quickly figure out not to do that! If it’s something important, my family will give me the room to deal with it, but otherwise they help me realize that I need to step back and give my family life some attention.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
Some have said that I say what needs to be said. I’m not going to shy away from what other people’s opinions are. That’s part of why I got involved in local government. I felt like there was not enough of that happening. Certain perspectives were not being brought up, and when they were being brought up, they were being pushed aside. You’re not going to appeal to everybody out there but being able to stand out there and have the fortitude to take the heat, that’s something that I think a lot of people notice and respect about me. They bring forward their concerns to me because they know I’m going to listen to them and try to be empathetic and get results. The more you do that as a public official, the more people appreciate it. Even if you don’t get the results that they want, they appreciate that you tried.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
I’ve always been a historic preservationist and interested in preserving older properties. The city had purchased a bunch of properties on a block and was going to remove them and put some new development in there. One of the buildings was a beautiful old Victorian house from the 1880s. The city didn’t really have any plans for it. They really just wanted the land and didn’t want to put any money into saving the house. A bunch of people convinced the city to put it up for sale for a dollar if somebody wanted to move it from the property.
My wife and were thinking about moving into a bigger house because our family was starting to grow, and we thought maybe buying this house was something we wanted to do. We talked about it and decided to do it.
It was a lot of work and a lot of energy just to get it approved by the city, but we persisted and at the last minute we got the approval to move the house. Then we had to do all the work. We hired people but we also did a lot of it ourselves. We spent a good year or more – spending weekends and evenings – moving that property and fixing up the old place. It turned out really well and I was super happy. You put your whole everything into something. Even to this day, people walk by and they say, “We love that you saved this place, it looks so awesome.” It was physically, emotionally, and financially difficult, but we were successful. It makes me feel proud because it was a very difficult thing that many wouldn’t normally do, but we were standing up for what we believed in.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
My family is super important to me as well as being a decent, moral person. One thing I’ve learned through this whole year of COVID lockdown is that I really do care a lot about everybody. It keeps you grounded about what’s important in life. Treating others respectfully and being kind and loving. At the end of the day, that is what life is all about.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
I see myself probably in the same spot. I don’t have any grand ambitions for anything too different. I would love it if I didn’t even have to be on the council. I do care that certain perspectives get shared and that there are diverse viewpoints, but I’m happy to not be on it if I felt like others were willing to be in that place. Maybe in five years that’ll be the case or maybe it won’t be, but I’m willing to do my part for a while until others step up.