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Paul Sandy resigns as Brainerd city engineer

Sandy will begin working as a senior project manager for engineering firm WSB on May 9.

Paul Sandy sits at table in county board room.
Brainerd City Engineer Paul Sandy addresses the safety and public works committee in January 2020 discussing Crow Wing County's offer to turn over control of a portion of Riverside Drive to the city.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Brainerd City Engineer Paul Sandy will step down from his post next month.

Sandy, who also serves as public works director, submitted his resignation to the city April 6, and City Council members accepted it during their meeting Monday, April 18.

Sandy started his engineering career with a private consulting firm in North Dakota but took a job as Brainerd’s assistant engineer in 2015 to be closer to family in Little Falls, where he grew up. He moved up to engineer in 2017 following the retirement of Jeff Hulsether.

Sandy’s last day with the city is May 6, and he will begin working as a senior project manager on municipal projects at WSB, an engineering firm in Baxter.

“I’ve always told myself that I would leave my options open,” Sandy said during a phone interview before Monday’s meeting. “Obviously I want to continue to further my career, and it’s kind of the same thing I’m doing right now, but I’ll be able to do it for multiple cities. So it’s not really a huge change. It’ll just be using what I learned at the city of Brainerd and applying that across, hopefully multiple cities in the area.”

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Sandy said he’s looking forward to doing more technical aspects of the job after being in managerial positions for the last seven years and looking more at policy and the 10,000-foot view of projects.

“This role, I think, will provide me a good mix of that policy-level stuff and also kind of a project-by-project type of role with communities — or townships, counties — whatever it is,” he said. “WSB kind of lets you dabble into whatever you can get your hands on, and they’re a fast-growing company. They want to grow this office in Baxter, and I just see a lot of opportunity to be kind of a leader in that office.”

But Sandy will certainly recall his time in Brainerd as a positive experience, taking a more active role in the parks department as public works director in the last year and a half, especially working on the Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park project.

He’s also proud of the city’s successful Safe Routes to School program, which has brought nearly $3 million in grants over the past few years to revamp sidewalks and pedestrian paths around elementary schools.

“We’ve been really successful in that program,” he said. “And with the City Council’s push to make the community more walkable and bikeable, I think that’s a resource or an opportunity for the city to continue to tap into that because it’s a good way to get projects funded.”

Another rewarding part of his time with the city is watching a project through from early stages of development all the way to completion. The city was just starting to study traffic on Northwest Fourth Street when Sandy joined the city in 2015, and that street’s redesign — complete with a roundabout — was just finished last year.

“You do a traffic study, you see an issue, you apply for funding, you get funding, you design, you get into construction,” he said. “So I mean, that’s really a rewarding thing is seeing a project from start to finish.”

While Sandy said he weighed his options heavily and the pros of moving to WSB ultimately outweigh the cons, the city was still a fantastic place to work.

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In his letter of resignation, Sandy wrote: “I cannot say enough about my time at the City of Brainerd. The experiences I have had and the people I have met have made my time at the city such a pleasure. I was very nervous coming from the private sector to the public sector back in 2015, but the experience I have gained from the public side have set me up to do great things for multiple cities in the private sector.

“The city is so lucky to have great leaders in both supervisory and hourly roles, and it is true to say that I could not have done what I did at the city over the years without their support and all the hard work they have put in. We, as public sector employees, are often not rewarded for the tireless hours, stress, and effort we put in to make the city what it is. I want to express my sincerest thank you to all the employees that have helped me grow as a leader at the city and who have mentored me to make me into whom I am today.”

Next steps for the city

The City Council approved an updated job description for city engineer/public works director Monday and designated council members Gabe Johnson and Mike O’Day to sit on a working group to oversee the hiring process with city staff. Johnson and O’Day already sit on a similar working group for the hiring of a new community development director.

Staff will present a timeline for hiring at the next council meeting May 2.

Sandy provided a detailed list of his projects and duties to the city with appropriate staff members identified to lead each task. Based on his recommendation, the city will not designate an acting city engineer/public works director at this time.

City Administrator Jennifer Bergman will address any department issues until a new engineer is hired, and WSB has offered to contract on a temporary basis with the city as needed. Bergman also reached out to Widseth and Short Elliott Hendrickson to request proposals for interim engineering services.

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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