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WSN wins first Business Excellence Award

BREEZY POINT — Crediting employees for their efforts at work and in the community, Widseth Smith and Nolting (WSN) Executive Vice President Kevin Wernberg Monday accepted the Brainerd Lakes Chamber’s inaugural Business Excellence Award at the chamber’s annual dinner.

“Wow,” Wernberg said. “This is pretty terrific.”

Wernberg thanked his “talented employees” for their resiliency and loyalty and said their efforts professionally and as volunteers in the community help make the Brainerd lakes area the best place to work, to raise a family and to live.

“We have some dedicated people,” Wernberg said.

Bruce Buxton, past president and past chair of WSN, thanked the employees’ spouses for understanding the late nights and travel the WSN employees sometimes endured. He also noted that the business community had seen some tough times recently.

“We’re hopeful for the future,” Buxton said.

Buxton, who was among the employees here when the Crookston-originated firm first opened its offices in the Brainerd area in 1978, thanked the other chamber businesses for their role in the community.

“Together we make this the best place to live, to work, to learn, to give and to grow,” he said.

WSN has 67 employees in its Baxter office, making it the largest WSN office with about one-third of the company’s employees.

Among the WSN employees, Wernberg singled out Donn Rasmussen and Charlie Nelson, who worked for Dean Anderson’s surveying business, which WSN purchased in 1978. Other employees whose service dates back to 1978 were Don Anderson and Buxton.

The Business Excellence Award, sponsored by the Brainerd Dispatch, was designed to recognize area businesses for their entrepreneurial spirt and business accomplishments. Factors involved in the judging were: growth, excellence, innovation, risk, business ethics and community impact.

WSN projects in the Brainerd area include the Paul Bunyan State Trail Bridge over Excelsior Drive in Baxter, Forestview Middle School, Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Baxter Clinic, St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School remodel and addition, Pillager school addition, Baxter’s new water tower, Riverside Drive, Johnson Centre, Downtown Brainerd streetscape, Bremer Bank, Paul Bunyan Visitor Center and the Brainerd City Hall remodel.

The company started in 1975 in Crookston with a small group of engineers. In June of 1978, WSN moved into the Brainerd lakes area.

WSN describes itself as a multi-disciplined firm with experts in civil, mechanical, electrical and structural engineering; architecture, landscape architecture; land surveying; environmental services and water resources.

The other two businesses nominated for the 2012 award were Deerwood Technologies and Range Inc.

Presenting the award at Breezy Point Resort were Brent Gunsbury of Bercher Design and Construction, program chair; and Tim Bogenschutz, Brainerd Dispatch publisher.

Earlier in the program chamber officials acknowledged new leadership roles for members of the chamber board. Kim Ellingson, Bremer Bank, now is board chair; Mike Dillon, Lexington Manufacturing, vice chair; Deb Mitzel, Dondelinger Chevrolet/ Cadillac Inc., treasurer; and Steve Mau, Brainerd General Rental, past chair. Incoming new board members are Jim Haakonson, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP; Tom Vasecka, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites; and Jani Wiebolt, Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

Chamber officials thanked their outgoing board members for their service. They include John Newhouse, Lakeland Mold; Tom Reek, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center; and Tom Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh’s Resort.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860