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Thief River Falls principal named head of Digi-Key human resources

THIEF RIVER FALLS—A Thief River Falls school principal will head Digi-Key Electronics' human resources department as the major distributor refocuses leadership responsibilities to accommodate a multi-million-dollar expansion.

After serving Lincoln High School for eight years, Principal Shane Zutz will become the director of human resources at Digi-Key, the school announced last week. His last day is Aug. 4, he said Monday.

"It was a very difficult decision, and I have a heavy heart, without a doubt," Zutz said of leaving the school. "The opportunity to work with Digi-Key during this time of expansion and help develop other leaders is something I have a passion for, and it is going to be a tremendous opportunity to do that."

The hire by Digi-Key comes as it prepares to build a million-square-foot expansion near its Thief River Falls headquarters at 701 Brooks Ave. The project is expected to cost about $300 million and will add 1,000 jobs, Digi-Key executives have said.

The electronics distributor has more than 3,500 employees.

As the vice president of administration and human resources, Rick Trontvet has overseen Zutz's future responsibilities for 15 years. With the added workforce, Digi-Key wanted to make changes to "bring the right amount of focus to each of these roles," Trontvet said.

That's why his title will change to vice president of administration while Zutz takes over the human resources department. Trontvet will focus on public affairs and community outreach while Zutz oversees internal business.

"We're excited about the change," Trontvet said. "We think it will bring added focus to both of those respective roles."

The transition will be effective Aug. 7.

Zutz was a communications and reading instructor for three years at Franklin Middle School in Thief River Falls before becoming that school's assistant principal in 2001. A graduate of Lincoln himself, he said he and his staff have worked hard to create a culture of inclusiveness at the school of 650 students. Part of that is making sure teachers and administration know the students, listening to children, saying good morning and wearing a smile.

"(The students) feel they are not a number and that they are known," Zutz said. "As a leader and a principal, it is important to be active and to get to know your kids. It doesn't matter how big your school is."

An outpouring of Facebook messages reacting to the announcement expressed sadness that he was leaving but also notes of good luck on his career change.

"He's a very talented leader who is ready for the next step forward in his career," Thief River Falls Superintendent Brad Bergstrom said in a statement. "I know Shane will bring Digi-Key the same focus on talent development and positive work culture that he brought to our schools during his years of service here. We feel Digi-Key's success ties directly to the community's success, and so as much as I'll miss Shane, I feel this is a great move for Shane, Digi-Key and the whole community."

The School Board was expected to accept Zutz resignation during a Monday meeting, as well as consider steps necessary to find his replacement.