Andrew Bjur uses his design-oriented mind to envision a better community
As an architect, Andrew Bjur has the opportunity to plan and create beautiful, efficient buildings for a variety of uses. In both his professional work and his community involvement, he has one goal with his designs: to make the Willmar community a better place to live and work.
Born and raised in rural Willmar, Bjur, 38, feels a strong connection to this area. After earning his bachelor’s degree in architecture from North Dakota State University, he moved back to Willmar in 1999 and took a job at Engan Associates PA Architects, where he still works today.
The firm’s community-oriented mindset is what initially drove him to volunteer and give back, Bjur says. In 2000, he became involved with Willmar’s Vision 2020, where he worked with other community members on projects that would bring long-term benefits to the area. As part of Vision 2020, Bjur played a major role in developing a trail from the then-new Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA to the rest of Willmar. That trail was instrumental in securing a grant to fund the Y’s aquatics center.
In 2005, Bjur began working with the Willmar Community Education and Recreation board to develop a disc golf course at Robbins Island. It took two years, but the course eventually opened in 2007 and has been expanded and updated every year since.
“We’re constantly developing it as a fun way to get more activity at Robbins Island,” said Bjur, who lives in Willmar with his wife and 8-year-old daughter. “It’s something for younger kids to do in the summer. It’s been a good asset for Robbins Island.”
Much of Bjur’s community involvement stems from his passion for the outdoors and his desire for a stronger quality of life in the community. For the last two years, he’s served as coordinator of the Willmar GreenStep Cities program, a position appointed by the mayor. He also sits on the Willmar Trails and Pedestrian Plan Task Force, and he is a member of the site committee for the Willmar Community-Owned Grocery. Previously, he served as a board member for Willmar Community Education and Recreation, worked on the trails committee for the Willmar Design Center and volunteered with the Willmar Planning Commission, where he helped to develop a wind-source ordinance for the city.
Bjur has also thrown his hat into the political ring. He ran for Willmar City Council in the last two elections but was unsuccessful.
“For me, it was a natural next step,” Bjur said. “In order to benefit the community, sometimes certain policies have to be made. I’d like to get involved in that, but maybe later in my career. I’m going to take a break from politics for a while.”
This year, Bjur was also elected to the American Institute of Architects Board of Directors for the Minneapolis chapter. As one of only two Greater Minnesota architects on the board, Bjur hopes to bring more attention to architectural issues and concerns in rural areas.
Clearly, Bjur has a workload that even people with many more years of experience would consider heavy. But in everything he does, his passion and commitment to the community shows.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything, but that’s the world of an architect,” Bjur said. “I want to use some of the skills that I have to contribute to the town. Because I’m going to live here, I want it to be an exciting, fun, attractive city.”