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New public works director learning city: Christensen, who began his job in March, fills position that was vacant more than a year

WILLMAR — Wyoming native Sean Christensen, Willmar’s new public works director/city engineer, says he is becoming familiar with Willmar city government, what each department is in charge of and, in his words, “getting a handle on who goes where.’’

Christensen previously worked for a total of about 4½ years for two private engineering firms in Wyoming and served 13 years as city engineer for the city of Powell, Wyoming, before moving to Willmar where he began his duties March 13.

He fills a position that had been vacant for a year and a half.

His short-term goal is to get organized and to do whatever he can to help others do their job; long-term, look for efficiencies wherever possible.

“Not that I have all the answers. And really listen to the superintendents because they’re the ones doing it. They know what’s going on and they know what works in the past, what hasn’t worked; maybe try something new, maybe we won’t. Definitely try to work together with those individuals,’’ he said.

Among other things, Christensen will also be working on a master plan — which had been placed on hold until the public works director position was filled — to update maintenance on city facilities such as buildings and infrastructure that had been deferred due to cuts in state aid in recent years.

Christensen grew up in Riverton, Wyoming, where his father and grandfather farm. Christensen was inspired to become an engineer by a cousin who built houses out of Popsicle sticks.

Christensen first attended South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and transferred to Montana State where he received his engineering degree.

Christensen said the availability of jobs in a larger city brought him and his family to Minnesota. His wife, Heather, is also a licensed engineer who is interested in an organizational management position. The couple has two children: a son, Tyrell, and a daughter, Tanna.

Christensen said he enjoys working in city government and for the public.

“It’s local projects. It’s the same people that you go to the hockey rink or the ball fields with you get to see and work with on a daily basis,’’ he said. “It’s not without its difficulties and differences amongst people. But that’s part of the deal. I enjoy it.’’

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150