WILLMAR — Starting Nov. 1, Willmar will have a new man at the helm of its Planning and Development department.

At the Monday Willmar City Council meeting, Justice Walker was hired as the new director. He replaces David Ramstad, who resigned in August.

"I am really pumped," said Mayor Marv Calvin regarding the hiring.

Walker introduced himself to the council at the meeting, giving a brief overview of his schooling, career and interests.

"I am certainly happy to be here, excited to get started," Walker said. "Looking forward to Nov. 1."

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Walker has an undergraduate degree in environmental studies and sustainability from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, which just happens to average about 100 inches of snow a year.

"That is where I cultivated my love for the cold," along with outdoor pursuits, Walker said.

He then earned his master's degree in city regional planning from Clemson University, not too far from his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. After earning his degree, he applied for jobs in the northern half of the country, wanting to get away from the oppressive heat of the South.

He moved to Willmar last year, accepting a position as a community planner with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission. While there, he has worked on a wide variety of projects such as comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances, special projects and non-traditional planning.

"It has been a wonderful time working there," Walker said.

Some of Walker's top interests are biking and local food, passions he hopes to bring into his professional life as well. He also served on the Willmar Bikes group and as a commissioner on the Willmar Planning Commission.

"I have a broad array of interests and a bevy of talents," Walker said.

He assured the council that he will make sure sound planning will be seen through and believes there are a lot of opportunities for Willmar.

"I am really excited to guide Willmar in the next phase of development. See what it can become," Walker said.

While he acknowledges he is young at only 28, Walker believes his youth will be a positive, because the young have good ideas too.

"Willmar can reach its potential, to be this cool thing on the edge of west and central Minnesota," Walker said.

The council is excited to bring Walker aboard, hoping his passion will rub off.

"If enthusiasm is contagious, I hope we are all infected," said Councilor Andrew Plowman. "That is what the community needs, enthusiasm and excitement moving forward for a wide open future."

Councilor Audrey Nelsen, who has worked with Walker in the past, is also happy that he will be joining the city.

"His passion is very much there," Nelsen said. "I am glad you are staying in the community to help us work on the future."