Career Case Studies

Will Manchester
Director of Public Works,
City of Minnetonka

Meet a Municipal Engineer

What do you want people to know about working for a local agency?

Working for a local agency gives you a great variety of experience, not only related to the field of public works and engineering, but expanding to a range of other professions including community development, finance, legal, recreation, police and fire to name a few.  At many times, you are working closely with these groups which allows you a wide range of job growth and experience in many areas.

What attracted you to work for your current employer? 

I was working for a consulting firm in a neighboring city, and had just completed a project in the City of Minnetonka.  The staff was very good to work with and a number of my colleagues knew the city engineer at the time and encouraged me to apply.  I had been working on a number of smaller cities and it was a great opportunity to work for a city on the public side of things.  Also, Minnetonka had a great reputation and was well respected.

Briefly describe your career path? 

Following college, I worked at a consulting firm in Plymouth, MN.  For the first three years, I did construction inspection, which allowed me to work outside on construction projects and learn in the field how street, utility, wastewater, trail, park, and facility projects, to name a few, were built from the construction side of things.  I had a great mentor who helped me make sure we were covering the expectations of our client cities.  Following, I moved into the office as a design engineer on these same types of projects, putting together plans and specifications to build projects.  Working in the field prior was extremely valuable to this role as I saw firsthand challenges of translation of paper to the actual construction.  During my role as a design engineer, I got my professional engineering license, and moved to a project manager taking the lead on client cities as the city engineer, as well as company client service manager.  After 7 years in consulting, I moved to the City of Minnetonka, MN as a Project Engineer, Assistant City Engineer, City Engineer, and now to my current role as Director of Public Works.  As the Director of Public Works I currently oversee Engineering, Street Maintenance, Park Maintenance, Utilities, Facilities, Fleet and Natural Resources. It is a great variety of work, challenging, and fun!

When you reflect on your younger self, can you identify any hobbies, interests, or characteristics that led you to your current position/career? 

My mom used to tell me stories of how when I was really young, before I could walk, she would put me in an area of toys and I would stay busy for hours.  My job today is very busy and there is always something to do, so I continue to stay busy to this day.  Also, when I was my younger self, I always liked to build things and enjoyed math and science.  Further, my father was an engineer and talked about projects and building things start to finish.  It all stuck with me!


Carol Andrews, P.E.
Environmental Project Manager,
St. Louis County Public Works

Meet an Environmental Engineer

What do you want people to know about working for a local agency?

Working for a local transportation agency is very rewarding and never dull. I enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with the County Engineer and their staff, each of who has their own area of expertise such as traffic design and safety, road maintenance, etc., to identify ways to reduce environmental impacts and improved transportation system sustainability. Transportation systems are in a period of change which creates interesting challenges as bridges and roads are built or re-built in a way that offers more multi-modal options in addition to a continued need to provide ever-safer infrastructure for motorized vehicles. 

What attracted you to work for your current employer? 

After working 15 years as a consulting engineer (which I also really enjoyed), I decided I wanted to work for just one company or entity, to be part of a team working together to get meet one big goal. I was excited to find a position working with a local government agency where I could use a surprising variety of my past work and life experience and interests, from stream restoration, stormwater management, invasive plant control and native plant restoration, and state rule-writing to design of better bike facilities.

Briefly describe your career path? 

College internship: construction inspector. Post-college engineering work: landfill permitting with the MPCA, environmental engineer working for the National Science Foundation contractor running research stations in Antarctica (favorite job with many similarities to current position with regard to need to work with wide variety of people working in many ways toward same overall goal); back to MPCA for 5 years of air quality permitting and work on legislation and a voluntary mercury reduction initiative; 1 year break from engineering working for native plant restoration company; 15 years with consulting engineer, last 6 years with St Louis County Public Works.

When you reflect on your younger self, can you identify any hobbies, interests, or characteristics that led you to your current position/career?

Easy! I love being outside, biking, camping, canoeing lakes and especially streams, learning technical things, making a good spreadsheet and working with other people. I highly value and enjoy working cooperatively with others.


Gina Mitteco
Regional and Multimodal Manager
Dakota County Transportation Department

Meet a Transportation Engineer

What do you want people to know about working for a local agency?

I find it incredibly rewarding to work on behalf of the public to improve the transportation system. Every day is about working collaboratively with staff, agency partners, and elected officials to solve problems that matter to people.

What attracted you to work for your current employer? 

When I learned about the position it had the right mix of topics that I was familiar with as well as new areas that would provide an opportunity for growth. I have also appreciated being part of an organization that works on a multitude of issues beyond transportation. It’s always interesting to attend a County Board meeting and hear about the wide range of issues the Board is making decisions on from public health, to parks, to social services.

Briefly describe your career path? 

I graduated college with a BA in Environmental Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College. After working for three years at a non-profit environmental organization, I pursued a MA in Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver Canada.

After finishing graduate school, I moved to Houston Texas for my partner’s job. Houston is known for its lack of zoning, so it was a unique place to begin a career in urban planning. My first job was at a consulting firm where I prepared comprehensive plans and other planning studies. From there I took a job with a regional transportation planning organization as their pedestrian and bicycle coordinator.

After more than five years in Houston, we moved back to Minnesota to be closer to family. I was fortunate to be hired by MnDOT as the first Metro District pedestrian and bicycle coordinator. This was an exciting time in the field as the state had just passed a Complete Streets statute and I helped the Metro District improve integration of walking and biking into their highway projects. I then moved into a role as Multimodal Planning Director overseeing the district’s bicycle, pedestrian, transit and freight initiatives. I’m currently the Regional and Multimodal Manager for the Dakota County Transportation Department working on transit, Trunk Highway, and bicycle and pedestrian initiatives.

When you reflect on your younger self, can you identify any hobbies, interests, or characteristics that led you to your current position/career? 

I have always had broad interests and been eager to learn and try new things. These traits probably have something to do with a career path that didn’t exactly follow a straight line. What I’m doing now isn’t what I would have predicted or probably wanted when I was 20. Looking back, each decision or turning point was guided partially by life circumstances, but also by my curiosity to learn, adapt, and try something new.


Jacob Backer
Engineering Technician,
Cook County Highway Department

Meet an Engineering Technician

What do you want people to know about working for a local agency?

Working for a local agency provides you with a stable, good paying job that also allows you to have a full life outside of work. It is also an amazing way to have a direct, positive impact on your community every day.

What attracted you to work for your current employer? 

Local agencies provide a very stable source of employment, reasonable hours, good pay, and great benefits. Working for a local agency is not only a great job, but allows me to have a great life outside of work as well.

Briefly describe your career path? 

I graduated from a four year university with a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management. I went to work for a very large international general contractor. I loved the work, and was able to move around the country for huge exciting projects in my five years with the company. When my wife and I learned we were going to have a baby, we decided it would be best for me to find a job with less hours, less travel, and more stability in our personal lives. Working for a local agency has provided me with a great deal of personal time in my life to spend with my family while also taking care of us financially.

When you reflect on your younger self, can you identify any hobbies, interests, or characteristics that led you to your current position/career?

I have always loved being outside, building things, and problem solving. Working in the field gives me the opportunity to have fun doing all three of those things while getting paid.


Brent Alcott
Water Resources Coordinator,
City of Chaska

Meet a Water Resources Engineer

What do you want people to know about working for a local agency?

There are many benefits for working for a local agency.  First of all, working with a close group of people allows for relationships that make coming to work enjoyable, much like working with your friends.  The second benefit is more related to the specific work that I do.  The smaller geographical area that I work in, compared to others in my field, gives me the ability to become much more aware of how the overall drainage systems functions.  I am able to know where the problem areas are and can better focus stormwater management and water quality improvement project efforts for the maximum resource benefit.  Lastly, with the City of Chaska I am able to be involved with the review of development and redevelopment projects from the beginning of the planning phase or process.  This allows me to help guide the project in a direction that provides the best long-term resource protection.

What attracted you to work for your current employer? 

I was drawn to the City of Chaska because it allowed the opportunity to work on a wide variety of issues and challenges.  This opportunity keeps the job interesting as there is no “typical” day.  I am able to be involved in everything from large (and small) development projects, working with individual homeowners drainage improvement projects, as well as countless other water quality improvement projects.  I enjoy the challenge of working to solve complex drainage issues, and helping to encourage responsible development that protects and improves water resources.  Further, I find it very rewarding to see projects that I have been involved with be implementing, knowing that my work is helping to preserve and enhance water quality.

Briefly describe your career path?

I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2012 with a degree in Biology and Chemistry.  My career goal was initially was to pursue a position as a research biologist to investigate how anthropogenic development impacts water resources.  I held a couple of seasonal research technician positions after graduation before accepting a position with as the Assistant Administrator of a watershed district in northern Minnesota in 2014.  In that position, I was responsible for both the water quality monitoring , various research and water quality improvement projects,  as well as overseeing the District’s stormwater management program.  It was during this time that I become more passionate about the stormwater management aspect of development (and redevelopment) projects and began to realize how important responsible development is to protecting water resources.

In 2019, I accepted my current position as the Water Resources Coordinator with the City of Chaska, my current position.  In this role I am responsible for assisting with implementation of the City’s stormwater management program.  This includes review of proposed development projects, implementing various water quality improvement projects, assisting residents with drainage concerns, and overseeing the City’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit.

When you reflect on your younger self, can you identify any hobbies, interests, or characteristics that led you to your current position/career?

As child that grew up along the banks of the Elk River, I spent the majority of my time exploring outdoors.  At a young age, I became interested in how land use effects water quality as I witnessed the water that I lived by become gradually impaired with excess sediment, bacteria, and nutrients.  During summer trips to less developed lakes and rivers, I noticed how different and clean the water was in these less areas.   This undoubtably helped shaped my interest to learn how we can minimize our impacts by living responsibly and protecting our natural resources.


Molly Swanson
Senior Engineering Technician,
City of Eden Prairie

Meet a Senior Engineering Technician

What do you want people to know about working for a local agency?

There are many benefits for working for a local agency.  First of all, working with a close group of people allows for relationships that make coming to work enjoyable, much like working with your friends.  The second benefit is more related to the specific work that I do.  The smaller geographical area that I work in, compared to others in my field, gives me the ability to become much more aware of how the overall drainage systems functions.  I am able to know where the problem areas are and can better focus stormwater management and water quality improvement project efforts for the maximum resource benefit.  Lastly, with the City of Chaska I am able to be involved with the review of development and redevelopment projects from the beginning of the planning phase or process.  This allows me to help guide the project in a direction that provides the best long-term resource protection.

What do you want people to know about working for a local agency?

I think it’s important for people to know that working for a local agency means that you most likely will have opportunities available to you that wouldn’t be available in the private sector.  Many folks that work for a local agency have a variety of responsibilities, and if you’re willing to learn, the opportunities are there.  Every day is different, there is variety to the work which is important to keep things new and exciting.  I have also found that the people that work for local agencies are passionate and work hard, the commitment to the public and local community is strong, and there is ownership of the work we do.

What attracted you to work for your current employer?

I had been looking for employment opportunities, hoping that I might find something at a local City government because after working for 10+ years in the private sector I felt that I needed a change of pace.  To be completely honest, I needed a more structured schedule where I wouldn’t have to be working late nights and weekends all the time just to keep pace.  I’d been working in a stressful environment in the consulting world for years, and it was wearing on me emotionally and physically.  So I was actively looking at City’s specifically, and I knew that a local agency would have a more attractive work schedule.  Now after working at the City for almost five years I’m finding that there are many more benefits that I hadn’t realized at the time I was looking for work.

Briefly describe your career path?

It has certainly been a long and winding road.  My first job after completing my 2-year tech school degree was with a small architectural firm and not long after starting there I discovered that architectural drafting was not for me.  From there I went to work for a single-family home design-build company where I learned the ins and outs of building a home, working with contractors and didn’t do much technical work at all.  Wanting to get back into more design work, I then began working for an engineering consulting firm and this is where I learned civil design and stayed at that firm for almost 5 years.  While working there, I ended up going back to school part-time and getting my bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology.  I had become disillusioned to some extent with the consulting engineering world, and I ended up working outside of the technical field for almost two years.  Eventually, I felt that my true talents were not being utilized outside of the technical realm, and decided to hop back into it.  I worked for two more consulting firms but found that not much had changed in that world – and I still felt the same way.  Wanting a more structured schedule and less stress, I actively searched for employment at a City.  I couldn’t believe my luck in finding an Engineering Technician position with the City of Eden Prairie, it offered everything I wanted.  I am doing civil design work, my bread and butter, but also learned on the job more about GIS mapping and analysis (and many other new-to-me responsibilities) which has been a welcome addition to my knowledge base.  I am also working to assist the Engineering Department in becoming more efficient and organized, helping to make decisions that will benefit the entire organization.  These are the kinds of opportunities I was not getting working outside of a local agency.  I’m happy after all the twists and turns that I ended up where I am.

When you reflect on your younger self, can you identify any hobbies, interests, or characteristics that led you to your current position/career?

Absolutely!  In junior high, a friend and I used to design and draw model homes and give them fancy names like “The Pemberton.”  I was intrigued by the built environment, I loved buildings – but when they were under construction, I was especially fascinated by their inner workings.  I was also very active and loved working with my hands.  I used to build model cars in my basement at home when I was young – I was not good at it at all, but I had a lot of fun building something.  Once I could take some introductory CAD classes at school, I found that I had an aptitude for the program and really enjoyed problem solving while doing design work.  In a way, I always knew I wanted to work in the technical field and do design work and I’m really happy I found a home at a local agency doing what I love to do.

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