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Red Wing’s city engineer awarded top honor

Red Wing City Engineer Jay Owens was award the Municipal Engineer of the Year Award on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. Owens' family surprised him at the event to celebrate with him. Pictured are (from left) nephew Taylor Owens, niece Ally Ogden, wife Stacy Owens and daughter Lauren Owens. Submitted photo

Every year the City Engineers Association of Minnesota names Municipal Engineer of the Year Award. The 2018 winner is Red Wing's Jay Owens.

Owens has worked on numerous projects since joining Red Wing in 1995. For example, the downtown project at Third and Bush streets in 2018. Owens also continues his focus on the construction of the Red Wing river bridge.

Winning the award was a "complete surprise" for Owens. He explained that he has attended this event numerous times with more than 300 other engineers and has watched engineers from a variety of municipalities win.

The Municipal Engineer of the Year Award is announced through a slideshow presentation about the winner. The first slide is a detail that would apply to numerous engineers. The details get more and more specific until the name is announced.

The first clue in the 2018 presentation was that the winner is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and enjoys mountain biking. Other clues included:

• The winner has only worked for two employers in his career

• He works as a MSHSL football official during the fall

• The winner has a burger named after them at a local restaurant. (Marie's Underground Grill and Tap House has the "Jay's Bridge Burger," which is an Angus burger with bacon, texas toothpicks and Marie's bourbon sauce.)

"When they got down to the end, I thought, 'This sounds a lot like me,'" said Owens. That was the first time that he had any idea he won the award. When his name was announced, Owen's family came out from behind the stage. Owens' wife and coworkers had known that he was the 2018 winner for over a month before the ceremony.

Owens was nominated by four people: Ron Rosenthal, his boss; Chad Hanson, a senior project manager with Minnesota Department of Transportation; Patty Brown, the executive director of the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce; and Mayor Sean Dowse. The letters of nomination were written in mid-November. They all focused on the superb work Owens has done for the city and his welcoming personality.

"His lifetime of relationships, knowledge, dedication and conscientiousness is unmatched and makes him an invaluable asset to the Red Wing community and his peers," Rosenthal wrote, adding, "As Jay's direct supervisor, I am honored to be able to nominate him for this award and proud to call him the city engineer of Red Wing. Jay's engineering knowledge, experience, trust, honesty and loyalty to the city make my job much easier."

Dowse wrote. "What I can tell you is that Red Wing has a treasure in Jay Owens. Jay's responsiveness, honesty, passion and engaging expertise brings the public into the fold of projects that can then go forward with the least amount of friction and the most municipal benefit."

Red Wing is home for Owens. He graduated from Red Wing High School, interned with the city and began his career with Red Wing over 20 years ago. Owens was named city engineer in March of 2004. He is also involved in numerous community groups and activities inluding Friends of the Bluffs, Live Health Red Wing, Red Wing Figure Skating Club and Red Wing Elks Club.

"I love showing up for work every day, I'm happy to be in Red Wing. ... I'm just lucky to be working in my hometown," Owens said.

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