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Long-time APWA-MN Chapter member Reid Wronski retiring - July 24, 2019

June 4, 2019

Long-time APWA-MN Chapter member Reid Wronski retiring - July 24, 2019
1. What prompted you to pursue a career in public works and tell us about your work history.
I did a career report in 8th grade where I had to investigate three professions. Civil Engineering was one of them. Guess I was one of the lucky ones who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. My education emphasized structures as I wanted to design bridges. I graduated near the end of the early 80s recession and local jobs were not plentiful. I was fortunate to get an offer from General Dynamics Space System’s Division in San Diego and had to take it considering I had never been out of the 5-state area or even on a plane and I needed a job. When I got there, I asked them why they hired so many Civil Engineers. They said we had a broad and well-rounded engineering education and “were cheaper” than other engineers. After almost 4 years of fun in the sun as a “rocket scientist,” I wanted to get back home to the Midwest. I joined SRF where I was able to fulfill my bridge design dreams before transitioning to OSM (the grandfather of WSB) where I added building design to my repertoire. The start of a family got me looking at opportunities outstate. I somehow landed a Design Engineer position for the City of Rochester. I was never so certain that I wasn’t going to get a job than after that interview; go figure. After 6 years in Rochester, I left my Infrastructure Manager job to become the City Engineer in River Falls, Wisconsin which was closer to family, and the lake. What I thought might last 3-5 years has turned into a great 20-year ride.
2. You have been involved in numerous public works projects What project are you most proud of and why?
The Cascade Avenue project here in River Falls was a very fulfilling project. It was an extreme street makeover taking a 56-foot wide straightaway though the UW-River Falls campus and turning it into a very pleasing corridor where cars, bikes, and pedestrians could coexist on a context-sensitive road. The City, University, or DOT could have caboshed the project, but we all chose to make it work. The project is a testament to what can be accomplished through long, slow and deliberate cooperation. I am humbled that the project was recognized by APWA-MN, APWA-WI, and APWA international as a Project of the Year.
3. You have had a chance to work with some incredible public works and local government leaders. Who would you suggest most greatly influenced your career and how?
My journey into public works really began when I went to the City of Rochester, Minnesota in 1993. My boss was Don MacGillivray. Not only did Don immediately introduce me to great organizations such as APWA-MN, CEAM and MSPE, he patiently trained and groomed me as a public works professional, teaching me how to accomplish the work we are expected to do despite many adversities that can get in the way. His patience and understanding gave me confidence that that I could do good things helping communities. Unfortunately, he also taught me life was not to be taken for granted. He was diagnosed with ALS shortly after his retirement and passed way too early. With me having been a Type I diabetic since age 15, life lessons like that have no doubt influenced my decision to seize a retirement opportunity.
4. You have served this chapter as an Executive Committee Director and on the Outstate Committee. What have you gained from being an active member of the Minnesota Chapter of APWA?
The relationships I have made through my involvement in APWA-MN have helped me perform my job at a higher level than would have been possible without such relationships. Being able to tap into other gifted and talented individuals that have already been down a certain path is invaluable. Furthermore, the conferences APWA-MN put together never fail to provide real value that I can put to use.
5. What words of wisdom would you like to share with someone who is new to APWA or to the profession?
Put yourself out there and meet as many of these great people as you can. Everyone one of them has the potential to save your butt and make you look smart.
6. What are your plans for retirement?
Simplify, downsize, and explore new ways to continue to enjoy life! We are planning to sell our home in River Falls and move north to our lake place near Minong, Wisconsin that we have owned for almost 30 years. We hope to build a “real cabin” (as opposed to our current “Taj-ma-garage”) next year. In the wintertime, we plan to explore the country in a small RV. For this coming winter, we already have ski passes that will get us into 38 different resorts around the North America. Hope to see some of you on the slopes!

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