For the past 19 years, Tom Mathisen has been Crystal’s city engineer. Much to his surprise, he was named “2012 City Engineer of the Year” by the City Engineer Association of Minnesota on Jan. 30.
City Manager Anne Norris nominated Mathisen, and once she found out he would be the recipient, arranged for herself, Mayor Jim Adams, Councilmember Mark Hoffmann and Mathisen’s wife, daughter and son-in-law to attend the awards ceremony to surprise Mathisen with the award.
“You’re sitting there with 40 other attendees, I never expected I would get it, so I was pretty surprised,” Mathisen said. “It’s a good honor.”
Mathisen said when they announced his name as the “2012 City Engineer of the Year” he thought there had to be some kind of mistake.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized among so many of my peers who are doing an equally good job at what they do,” he said. “How I stood out, I don’t know.”
Norris said she nominated Mathisen because he’s always been willing to “tweak processes and try new technology”.
“I think he’s a great engineer,” she said. “He always comes up with a better way to get a project done. He’s gracious dealing with residents and is always willing to try new things. He is an amazing engineer, he’s very innovative.”
As city engineer, Mathisen is responsible for all of the city’s construction projects, maintaining infrastructure within the city, streets, parks, sewers and water. He also holds all land records for the city and helps public works by managing equipment to keep the city running.
“You have to be good at a lot of different things to be in this job,” Mathisen said. “It’s hectic but demanding, but I think it fits for a ‘Type A’ personality.”
Since his time as Crystal city engineer, Mathisen has been involved with the Shingle Creek and Bassett Creek watershed districts, Joint Water Commissions, served on the State Aid Screening Board, been a member of the Met Council Committee on Transportation and a chair for the Shingle Creek Watershed Commission.
He has been awarded a number of recognitions including helping secure the “Street Reconstruction Project of the Year” a few years back.
“I was lucky that when I got this job, my kids were already grown and moved away,” Mathisen said of his heavy workload.
Before he took the job in Crystal, Mathisen had previously worked as a state and federal engineer, but he thought that area was too big and unpredictable. Mathisen said he felt that he didn’t have enough hands-on control.
Mathisen then moved on to heavy underground construction and eventually worked as an engineer consultant. He had the opportunity to work for the City of Coon Rapids as the assistant city engineer. There, he felt that local engineering was the place to be.
“You can see results a lot sooner,” he said. “You don’t have to convince congress or legislature. It’s just the citizens, council and mayor.”
Mathisen said he wouldn’t be able to do his job in such a manner without Norris, senior and support staff, public works directors and the council and mayor.
“In 19 years, we’ve had full changing of the guards,” he said. “But we’ve always had personalities in the mayor and council members and we’ve always been able to get work for the people done in a really efficient way. Crystal, I think, kind of shines as a city that gets things done in an economically efficient way and that makes my job easier.”
Norris said that Mathisen is an over-achiever and has been working on helping the city save energy by renovating city facilities and street lights to save money.
“He can’t sit still,” laughed Norris. “He has a lot of expectations for himself and he researches the heck out of anything. He’s smart and he’s willing to be open to other perspectives.”
Being named City Engineer of the Year, is not only a great honor for Mathisen, but he said it is city for the city as well.
“It’s a feather in a hat for Crystal,” he said.
“It’s an honor for Tom and for Crystal,” added Norris.
Contact Anna Woodwick at [email protected]