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New St. Paul Park Public Works head reports for duty

St. Paul Park’s new Public Works Supervisor Rob Weldon has roughly 18 years of experience working in the field and said his father and grandfather inspired him to be a city servant. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)

The keys to every snowplow, truck, lawn mower and jet-vac in St. Paul Park have been handed over to Rob Weldon.

Weldon has taken over as the new Public Works supervisor, a hiring that filled the vacancy left after the recent retirement of Lee Flandrich.

Weldon, who started last week, has nearly 18 years of full-time experience working in various Minnesota and Wisconsin public works departments.

“It might sound a bit cliche,” Weldon said as he explained how he got into his line of work, “but I actually followed in the footsteps of my father and grandfather who both worked in the field.”

Growing up in Plum City, Wis., Weldon was introduced to the world of public works as a child and would often accompany his father and grandfather, a former Plum City mayor, out on jobs. It was no surprise, he said, that he ended up working in the department throughout high school before getting hired on as a full-time employee in 1996.

“This was more of a general maintenance position,” Weldon said.

Three years later, he took a position with the city of White Bear Lake’s sewer department. Weldon’s wife, Trish, was attending school in St. Paul at the time and he said it was a convenient job nearby.

Weldon spent the next two years there, and in 2002 he accepted a position with the city of Hugo before moving onto Somerset, Wis., in 2006 when he became one of two supervisors in the village’s public works department.

At that time, Weldon and his wife had recently built a house in the area to be closer to family. Being involved in his kids’ lives — two girls, currently 10 and 7, and one son, 8 — Weldon said, was a priority and a motivating factor to finding a job closer to home. But working in a city of just over 2,600 people, he said, was tough.

“Personally, working in a community with a small population and trying to be involved in my kids’ activities was very hard at times,” he explained. “There were times that I had a hard time separating my private life from work.”

The inability to leave work at the office began to weigh on both Weldon and his family.

In May 2013, after serving the village of Somerset for seven years, Weldon stepped out of the public works field and into more of a desk job with Ecolab as a wastewater treatment plant operator.

“That was an interesting job,” he said.

He was contracted to work with GreenWhey Energy in Turtle Lake, Wis., a roughly 50-minute commute from his home in Somerset.

“I didn’t mind the commutes,” Weldon said. “It helped me wind down and get ready for the day.”

His work with GreenWhey consisted of overseeing an anabolic reactor that turned dairy wastewater into biogas to provide power to nearly 3,000 homes. The 4 million gallon reactor, Weldon said, is the largest in the world.

“It was really cool what that technology could do,” he said. “But when I began to miss working in public works, I realized what my calling was.

“That’s when I saw the opening for the Public Works supervisor in St. Paul Park,” he added. “I was looking for that next step and St. Paul Park is double the size of Somerset and I knew I wanted to get back in the metro,” he said. “With the city in the east metro, it makes this job a perfect fit.”

Since joining the St. Paul Park department just over a week ago, Weldon said he has been soaking up a lot of information, learning the different neighborhood roads and rubbing elbows with many city officials and employees.

City Administrator Kevin Walsh said Weldon was an easy choice for the city.

“We felt he had a passion and dedication for working in public works and would bring that passion and dedication to St. Paul Park,” Walsh said. “He will create his own footprint within the Public Works Department.”

Weldon’s favorite job is dealing with large snowfalls.

“It’s that adrenaline that you get when you know you have to get the job done right now,” he said. “We keep the city running and it’s our job to make sure people can get out and get to work.”

That same adrenaline kicked in just three days into his new position when a water main broke near Oltman Middle School. Weldon fielded many calls relating to the incident that sent students home early and had crews digging up the ground in chilly weather.

“It’s all part of the job,” he said.

Setting into his new role, Weldon said he wants to continue to provide St. Paul Park citizens with the same amount of dedication that was provided by the leader before him.

“This seems like a really great department and everyone wants to pitch in to get the job done,” he said. “I know the former supervisor was very dedicated to his job, as am I. And I take a lot of pride in what I do.”