Student Stories

Todd Prafke Main

Serving the City: Todd Prafke MPA '15

 Not every kid gets to attend council meetings in the fire hall of their hometown. For those who do, it is a memorable experience. It certainly was for Todd Prafke, Master of Public Administration (MPA) ’15. Though it was not only sitting on the fire trucks that stayed with him—it was the flow of how the council meetings fit together and that his mother, the mayor, was dedicating herself to public service.

Through his young adulthood, those ideas were brewing, and they culminated in Prafke taking an internship at the state capitol and working for Senators Don Frank and Tracy Beckman on economic and housing development. It was an opportunity that connected him to very influential people; but, more importantly, it also exposed him to true public service, and he fell in love with it.

“I’m a firm believer in the honor of public service,” Prafke said. “I know it’s cliché, but you truly do get to make a difference.”

When a cluster of four cities decided that they wanted their own administrator, the knowledge he gained and the connections Prafke made while at the capitol made him the top choice for the job. He gladly accepted.

“Sometimes people laugh, because the populations of those four towns was maybe 3,000,” Prafke said. “But I got to learn a lot and work with people who cared and wanted to do great things for the community.”

That experience affirmed Prafke’s desire to stay in city administration.

“At the city level, you bump into so many people who just care about their community,” Prafke said. “To facilitate that passion and show people how they can make those changes is really amazing.”

Prafke has served as the city administer of Saint Peter since 1997, which put him in an interesting position when he decided to pursue his master’s degree. He wanted a program that would not interfere with his day-to-day work and family life but that also would give him exposure to other practitioners.

That set of criteria led him to Hamline’s online MPA program. Each course was online, allowing him the flexibility to do his class work when it suited him best, but he was still able to build that face-to-face network with the on-campus residencies.

Prafke was also drawn to Hamline because the majority of professors are practicing public administration professionals.

“I was trying to challenge some of my thoughts and ideas about how public administration is supposed to work,” Prafke said. “I didn’t think that could be done without exposure to other practitioners.”

Of course, having already attained the position he wanted, it could be difficult to see Prafke’s motives for returning to school. For him, though, it had never been about the career advancement.

“My wife has her master’s in education plus about forty degrees,” he said with a laugh. “So I guess I had something to prove.”

“Truthfully, though,” he continued. “The degree won’t advance my career or get me to another pay level, it’s true, but it’s for me, to expand my skills and opportunities and gain another window of challenge for myself and for others to challenge me. I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know it all. To be able to hear other people’s thoughts was really worthwhile for me.”

He also made the decision for his family: “There’s something about going back to school and having my kids see that you work for things that are for you, not for some other means or ends.”

Hamline’s program more than lived up to the experience Prafke was after.

“I built relationships, developed skills, and challenged myself to think about how things fit together,” Prafke said. “That was my biggest takeaway. As with any job, mine continues to evolve, and the program gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I do, how I do it, and its evolution. It really is about having the opportunity to take something in and reflect on and learn from it and push it in a different direction to see where it might lead.”

To learn more about Hamline’s Master of Public Administration program, visit the School of Business website or contact Graduate Admission.