Moving up the ladder at City Hall

Jeff Sargent, left, says he’s learned a lot from Curtis Jacobsen and other directors he’s worked for over the years. He believes his previous experience in community development has equipped him with the skills necessary to succeed as the new director. (Sun Post staff photo by Gina Purcell)
Jeff Sargent, left, says he’s learned a lot from Curtis Jacobsen and other directors he’s worked for over the years. He believes his previous experience in community development has equipped him with the skills necessary to succeed as the new director. (Sun Post staff photo by Gina Purcell)

Curtis Jacobsen retires, Jeff Sargent promoted

Dedicated, knowledgeable and precise work is leading two New Hope city employees down new paths –retirement and promotion.Curtis Jacobsen

Director of Community Development Curtis Jacobsen has worked for the city more than eight years, but May 28 will be his last as he enters retirement.

Prior to working in New Hope, Jacobsen worked 10 years for Howard Lake, five years for Big Lake, and five years for Isanti. Jacobsen also served four years in the U.S. Navy before entering government work.

What brought him to New Hope?

“A slightly different opportunity,” he said. “I had never worked in a metro area city.”

Jacobsen’s first position with the city was community development specialist, the role Jeff Sargent holds currently.

In 2007, one year after starting his career in New Hope, Kirk McDonald –the former director of community development– was appointed city manager and Jacobsen took his place.

After seven years as the department’s director, Jacobsen says it seems like the right time to leave.

“Now, (the city) is just kind of getting (developments) cranking,” he said. “It seemed like the perfect time. The activity should help bring in interested (candidates).”

As director of community development, he oversaw all redevelopments, planning and zoning functions, building inspections, department programs and budgets.

His most notable projects include former Bass Lake Road Apartments, Swift Gas Station, Kmart, Wells Fargo Bank and Winnetka Learning Center. He also pursued opportunities to buy, rehabilitate and sell foreclosed houses to stabilize neighborhoods.

“Curtis was a good person to work with,” McDonald said. “Very knowledgeable and dependable. Because of his previous experience in other communities as a city administrator, he had an extensive knowledge of overall city operations including economic and community development.”

Jacobsen said New Hope gave him no reason to leave over the past eight years, he enjoyed his work.

“(My favorite part of my job) is trying to convince people that New Hope is a great city to do business in,” he said. “There are so many great opportunities here.”

Jacobsen says he will miss the people when he departs.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “There’s a lot of good people here.”

McDonald recalls a comical moment shortly after Jacobsen had undergone eye surgery. He was required to wear dark glasses while recovering. After listening to a presentation at a council meeting, all council members put on dark glasses to surprise him.

“That was pretty funny,” McDonald said.

Jacobsen plans to spend his retirement traveling the country, attending blues festivals, driving to Alaska and visiting every national park.

He said he always assumed Sargent would replace him when the time came and knows he will do well in the new role.

Jeff Sargent

Current Community Development Specialist Jeff Sargent will replace Jacobsen as director effective May 29.

Despite his experience with the city, Sargent was required to apply and interview for the position along with the 11 candidates.

The application process included three interviews with the management team, personnel board and finally the city manager and then the director of community development and human rights director. The final decision was made by the city manager.

“Jeff’s knowledge of ongoing and upcoming projects in New Hope, his dedication to his current position as well as the city, and his education and previous experience helped set him apart from other candidates,” McDonald said.

Sargent is happy to be given the opportunity.

“Obviously, it’s a great honor,” he said. “It fulfills my career goals thus far. I know that the City of New Hope has some great history and some strong leadership in the past. I’m grateful Kirk feels I am the right person to continue leading the department.”

But Sargent brings more than two year’s experience with the city.

He earned a bachelors degree in geography and urban economics from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. A variety of professional interest and strengths tests provided Sargent with the idea to pursue a career in the development department.

“It really turned out to be true,” he said. “There’s a lot of special analysis, figuring out where things go in a layout, working with people and math. A lot of different things I enjoy doing all wrapped in one profession.”

While in school, he completed an internship with the planning and development department in Milwaukee.

After graduating in 2001, he worked four years as associate planner of White Bear Lake and seven years as city planner of Columbia Heights.

After speaking with his boss, Sargent returned to school earning a master’s degree in public and nonprofit administration from Metropolitan State University in 2011.

His boss told him it would open a lot of doors.

“I could not agree more,” he said. “It retaught me how to dedicate myself to achieve something. It really did open doors even to get the position I am in now. It was a motivating factor for me to get (my master’s).”

In 2012, New Hope welcomed him to the team.

Sargent hoped his dedicated work would land him the promotion to director one day. He believes his past experience working with cities is a large benefit moving forward.

“I was really able to work closely with the directors in all my positions,” he said. I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills and people skills as far as how to handle different situations.”

He is most looking forward to continuing the many redevelopments in the city.

“It’s really exciting stuff,” he said.

McDonald has no doubt Sargent will continue doing positive things for the city.

“I am confident he will continue to serve the city in an exemplary manner,” he said.


Contact Gina Purcell at [email protected]