New public works director takes the reins
Since Monday, Wadena has had a new person in charge of its streets, sewers and parks: Public Works Director Dan Kovar, who moves up from his former post as manager of the Wadena Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“I really enjoy the well-roundedness of everything,“ said Kovar of his twelve years already spent with the public works department. “I really enjoy this work.”
Kovar, who took over from retiring public works director Ron Bucholz, was appointed by the city council late last month after a rigorous hiring process that involved the council performing two rounds of interviews.
Kovar grew up on a dairy farm around Wadena but now lives near Deer Creek with his wife of over 30 years. He also has three adult children and three grandchildren. Before he came to the city’s wastewater treatment plant in 2001, he did a combination of crop farming and working various part-time jobs. In 2006, he became plant manager, and eventually guided the facility through a $4.2 million dollar general remodeling project.
City Administrator Brad Swenson mentioned Kovar’s work on the overhaul as an example of the established track record he had as a city worker, which made him stand out from other applicants.
“He proved himself very well in that process,” Swenson said.
The new director’s starting salary is $55,016 annually, with the opportunity for increases as part of a seven-step pay schedule, Swenson said. Like all city workers, Kovar’s employment is day-to-day; with no formal contract dictating the length of his tenure as public works director.
The life of a city employee appeals to Kovar because of the people he gets to meet, he said. He also derives satisfaction from being able to see the results of his hard work laid out before him after the streets have been cleared of snow, for example.
Kovar said Bucholz leaves “huge shoes to try and fill” and that he doesn’t plan on changing the makeup of the department drastically from the way Bucholz ran things.
“I just want to maintain what we’ve got, and keep things going,” Kovar said.
Kovar described the ideal leader as one who pays attention to the thoughts of those around them and who doesn’t shy away from constructive criticism. He pointed out that it’s the average citizen who foots the bill for what he does as a city employee.
“We work for the residents of the city of Wadena,” he said. “I think their opinion, their voice, is very important.”
Upcoming projects for Public Works include water/sewer infrastructure projects in the southern corners of Wadena, assisting with construction of the new Regional Wellness Center and improvements to city parks, Kovar said.