Pablo Obregon hired as the city of Willmar director of community growth

Pablo Obregon will begin his work March 15 as Willmar director of community growth, responsible for citywide coordination of programs, education and outreach in the areas of equity and inclusion.

Pablo Obregon will join the city of Willmar as its director of community growth as of March 15, 2023.
Contributed / Southwest Initiative Foundation

WILLMAR — The city of Willmar has filled the director of community growth position by hiring a well-known local leader — Pablo Obregon.

Willmar City Council unanimously approved his hire at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 21. Obregon will begin in his new position on March 15. The council approved the new position at its meeting on Nov. 14, 2022.

“It’s my pleasure being in front of you knowing that every time I am experiencing a big snowstorm, something good is going to happen to me,” Obregon said as he was introduced to the council, noting he was introduced to Willmar in May of 1992 during a late snowstorm and arrived in Minnesota in the fall of 1991 during the Halloween storm. “So here we are, another event with the snow involved, which reminds me that it is a good evening for me.”

The director of community growth will be responsible for administering citywide coordination of programs, education and outreach in the areas of equity and inclusion.

There were 24 applicants for the position, both local and from out of state, and five applicants interviewed for the position in mid-December, according to Willmar City Administrator Leslie Valiant.


“We purposely left this open as an until-filled position because we weren’t sure how many applicants we were going to receive and we wanted to make sure that we were getting enough applicants to fill this new position,” Valiant told the council. “It is quite a required skill set that not many have out there in this world right now.”

There was another candidate from out of state offered the position, but after thinking about it, that applicant decided it was not the right time for him to move to Minnesota, according to Valiant.

After again reviewing the remaining applicants, the position was offered to Obregon.

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Obregon currently sits on the Minnesota Council of Foundations as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion, according to Valiant. Prior to that, he worked with the Southwest Initiative Foundation for about six years, where his primary roles were leading strategy development and implementation and leading the efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.

Other prior roles include being a board member of the Kandiyohi Community Drug Free Communities Coalition, being a board chair of Pioneer PBS television and serving on an advisory committee at Ridgewater College, according to Valiant.

The director of community growth position was made possible with the support of $450,000 in funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and the starting salary range is $92,596 to $120,375.

Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: or phone at 320-214-4339.
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