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New city engineer ready to learn the ropes in Brainerd

Jessie Dehn took over as city engineer and public works director in early August.

City engineer Jessie Dehn gestures as he stands by a construction site.
Jessie Dehn visits the site of utility work at Laurel and Southeast 13th streets in Brainerd Friday, Aug. 19, 2022. Dehn is the city's new engineer and public works director, overseeing areas like streets and sewer, parks, transit and engineering.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Starting right in the middle of budget season, Jessie Dehn is learning the ropes quickly as Brainerd’s new city engineer and public works director.

“I’ve been really blessed to have a great staff here because they’ve been able to assist me with going through that process and helping me along the way without having any prior institutional knowledge of what Brainerd has done in the past and us wanting the direction to move forward,” Dehn said during an interview in his City Hall office Wednesday, Aug. 17.

Dehn most recently served as assistant engineer in Marshall before coming to Brainerd in early August and taking over for Paul Sandy, who resigned the post earlier this year.

Originally from Princeton, Dehn graduated from Minnesota State University-Mankato and has since worked in several facets of public service, including county government in North Dakota and the Toll Road Authority in Houston. But after having his youngest kids — who are 2 and 4 — Dehn and his wife wanted to move back to Minnesota to be closer to family. Since being back in his home state, he has taken positions in McLeod County and Mille Lacs County.

It was his uncle — another civil engineer — that got Dehn interested in the field.

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“And I really appreciate the work that we do with the government and providing the public services, and that’s kind of what I got into engineering for,” he said.

As engineer and public works director, Dehn heads up matters relating to streets and sewer, parks, transit and, of course, engineering.

“The city engineer is in charge of all those different pieces — coordinating those efforts between construction projects or routine maintenance and going through all those different pieces that we have to continue to keep the streets clear and passable and the parks workable and usable,” he said. “So there’s a lot of different moving parts, but we’re always trying to coordinate those efforts so that we’re moving things forward.”

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The city created a public works department last year, after testing out the new structure in late 2020 on the heels of the retirement of Parks Director Tony Sailer. The department operates as an umbrella department, combining the parks and engineering departments into one and eliminating the parks director position.

“It’s a different organization than I’m used to — having parks under the public works department — so that’s been a transition,” Dehn said. “I think it’s a great organizational structure. I think parks absolutely belongs in the public works department. It makes sense to me.”

Dehn is looking forward to delving deeper into the parks and trails systems in Brainerd in both his professional capacity and personal life outside of work.

“I’m a big believer in the parks facilities and the value it brings to a community,” he said. “... I do have younger kids that enjoy parks quite a bit, so it’s nice to have those facilities, and I think Brainerd does a really great job of taking care of them and has a really great set of parks and the trail system. So getting to explore those more, I think I’m looking forward to it quite a bit.”

Dehn feels more at home in a municipal government setting compared with his time at the county level because of the community connectivity and hopes to make those connections during his time in Brainerd.

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“I’m just incredibly blessed to be in this position,” he said. “It’s an incredible opportunity in an area that we really enjoy, and we’re really looking forward to the public service that we can provide for the community. And my family is really looking forward to being back up in this neck of the woods and around family.”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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