Colleagues remember long-time Ham Lake city employee

Sharon Ayshford worked in public service most of her life because she wanted to give back to the community, according to her family and friends.

Sharon Ayshford died May 9 at the age of 60. She worked for the city of Ham Lake for 24 years before she retired this past August as the city clerk. Submitted photo
Sharon Ayshford died May 9 at the age of 60. She worked for the city of Ham Lake for 24 years before she retired this past August as the city clerk. Submitted photo

Ayshford passed away May 9 at the age of 60. When she was not at Ham Lake City Hall performing the duties of a city clerk, she was in her garden, golfing, traveling, dancing, volunteering at her church or spending time with her friends and family.

What her son Zachary will remember the most about his mother is how good she made people feel when she smiled and laughed and how supportive she was of the underdog.

“I’ll miss her laugh,” said Julie Braastad, a former Ham Lake Councilmember and current Anoka County Commissioner.

Zachary remembers his mother being the peacemaker when parents of opposing youth sports teams got into arguments and that she formed close friendships with some of her colleagues at Ham Lake City Hall, but she did not bring political discussions home with her.

“She was a hard worker, always made us kids be respectful of others,” Zachary said.

Ayshford had two sisters, three step-sisters and a step-brother. She grew up in Spring Lake Park and one of her first jobs was working at a local A&W restaurant.

It was at a Sears surplus store where she met her future husband. They tied the knot 40 years ago and soon moved to Ham Lake, Zachary said.

Ayshford was truly at home in the garden.

“At one point there were over 1,000 hostas,” Zachary said, adding that the family thinks she also planted about 350 variety of plants.

Ayshford’s first job in public service was at the Hennepin County Government Center before she became a stay-at-home mother of three sons and one daughter.

Zachary said after he and his siblings were older, Ayshford was hired as a part-time clerk typist in Ham Lake in 1989. It was the perfect place for her. She was back in public service and working close to home.

By December 1993, Sharon was promoted to deputy city clerk and ultimately became the city clerk. She retired in August 2013.

“She was a very close friend. She was my partner in everything we did operating the city,” City Administrator Doris Nivala said.

Ayshford was the person in charge of making sure all the local election judges were properly trained and that polling locations were functioning smoothly. She handled the tracking paperwork for city licenses. Some cities contract with an outside company for taking minutes at city council meetings. Ayshford took all the minutes.

There were many projects she helped withe behind the scenes, Nivala said. Most recently, she headed the project to re-design the city’s website to make it more user friendly. When the council ditched paper packets in favor of electronic packets, she handled the transition.

Nivala said whenever she was out of the office, Sharon was in charge.

Braastad and Nivala said one of their favorite things to do with Sharon and everyone’s spouses was to golf.

Although many decisions the council made would impact Ayshford and her husband because they lived in Ham Lake, Braastad and Nivala said she was not one to tell the council what she thought.

Braastad said she would sometimes speak in generalities with Ayshford, but never get too specific, not wanting to insert her into in the middle of a debate on a specific issue.

“When you work for city government, you keep those opinions to yourself,” Nivala said. “She was always good at remaining apolitical.”

Braastad said Ayshford was someone who would volunteer her time at Glen Cary Lutheran Church. When there was a community fundraiser, she would come out to support the family by bidding on a silent auction item.

When Braastad’s first grandchild was born three-and-a-half years ago, Sharon shared with Braastad her own joyous experiences of being a grandmother. Sharon three grandchildren.

“This will be a really hard funeral because she was so outgoing and loved life and tried to live life to the fullest,” Braastad said Tuesday afternoon, May 13, just hours before the visitation at Glen Cary Lutheran Church. The memorial service was Wednesday morning. “Her dedication to her family and job were really remarkable.”

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]