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Tim Phenow - Recognizing a long-time Chapter Member

May 4, 2017

Tim Phenow - Recognizing a long-time Chapter Member

By Erica Larsen, SRF Consulting Group, Inc.

There are many hallmarks of a good leader – integrity, focus, passion, and respect, to name a few. While former APWA-MN Director and longtime member ,Tim Phenow possesses all of these qualities in abundance, perhaps his greatest strength is humility.

“There is nothing surprising, unique, or unusual about me,” says Phenow.  “Maybe one thing . . . there is a park building in Maple Grove named Phenow Pavilion. How cool is that! Quite unexpected and very humbling.”

Although Phenow, a 35-year-member and 20-year chair of the Maple Grove Parks and Recreation Board, was quite surprised by the building dedication, fellow colleagues and friends often draw inspiration from Phenow’s lifetime commitment to volunteerism and his passion for giving back to the community.

His engineering career spans nearly 40 years, most of which was spent at SRF where he helped build and lead the company’s Municipal Engineering practice. After earning a civil engineering degree from the University of Minnesota in 1976, Phenow briefly worked in Chicago for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Towers Division, but eagerly returned to Minnesota after receiving a job offer from Bob Roscoe (one of SRF’s original founders) over the phone.

Happy to move back to the Twin Cities, Phenow quickly exceled in his new position at SRF and continued to advance through the ranks over the years, from project engineer and associate to principal and senior vice president, where he would eventually manage all aspects of design and project development. As a respected member of SRF’s Executive Committee, Phenow also oversaw human resources, accounting, IT, support services, office space, and legal until retiring last fall.

Phenow, who first became involved in APWA early in his career for the educational benefits, quickly realized the organization’s tremendous networking opportunities available to municipal and public works professionals. “[APWA] has been one of the most enjoyable and beneficial organizations for me in my career,” says Phenow. “Anyone who is in public works – from administration, design, operations, to construction – should be in this organization. The people I have gotten to know, their knowledge and their friendships have been invaluable.” 

The MPWA/APWA was also Phenow’s opportunity to visit many different cities around the country and see firsthand how other regions did things in public works. Phenow fondly remembers his first Congress experience 30 years ago in Orlando, Florida where former Maple Grove Public Works Director Gerry Butcher took him under his wing and showed him the ropes. Phenow still credits Butcher for being his mentor and role model throughout his entire career.

Reflecting on the last several decades, Phenow says the biggest change he has experienced involves technology, especially in computing, graphics, and communications. Phenow especially notes how technology has sped up everything we do and raised expectations in how quickly products and services should be delivered. “What has not changed is the importance of good communication and getting to know and understand our clients and our constituents,” says Phenow.

Finally, Phenow leaves us with this advice: Always take the high road. You never know when an employee or employee candidate might become your client, or a competitor might become your partner, or a contractor might want you on his design-build team.”

Recently retired, Phenow often spends his days walking, reading, golfing, and enjoying extra time with his wife of 40 years, Sue; four sons; and nine grandchildren. He also looks forward to spending more time at his cabin and traveling around the United States with his wife. You can contact Tim at

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