Charlie Howley just came onboard with the city of Chanhassen as its newest public works director and city engineer. Howley comes to the city from Hansen Thorp Pellinen Olson, also known as HTPO, which specializes in civil engineering and construction management services, along with surveying and landscape architecture design services. He joined HTPO 21 years ago, right out of the University of Minnesota with a civil engineering degree.
Throughout his career, most recently as a consulting engineer at HTPO, he’s worked with many city governments and state projects, providing him broad experience with all the types of public works projects that a city like Chanhassen requires.
Howley was born and raised in Prior Lake. He didn’t decide on a civil engineering career until he was facing high school graduation and knew he’d have to pick a major. His mother suggested he look into civil engineering, based on his strong math abilities and his interest from childhood on, with blueprints, floor plans and technical diagrams and documents.
A high school career day presentation by a professional civil engineer swayed him. “Civil engineering sounds OK to me,” he remembers thinking at the time.
Civil engineering appeals to him because engineers work on all the things that the public uses: Transportation and roads, bridges, city water systems. “To me, it was more interesting than mechanical engineering where you design widgets for larger systems,” Howley said.
Chanhassen has had a turnover of public works directors in the past year. When City Manager Todd Gerhardt introduced Howley at the last Chanhassen City Council meeting of 2019, he stated how happy he was to find Howley and that Howley agreed to work for the city.
Earlier this week, in an interview at city hall, Howley said it wasn’t a difficult decision to join the city staff as public works director and city engineer.
“We (HTPO) had done work for the city (Chanhassen) over the years, so I was familiar with the city. And based on where I live (Prior Lake) and looking for the right fit, this was an opportunity that presented itself.”
1 What’s top of your to-do list?
A: The first thing is learning the ropes, and getting some staff stability. We’re looking for a water resources coordinator and there is a GIS position to fill. I know the city has had some turnover in the department so I want to get the department stabilized.
2 What kinds of projects did you work on in your former position?
A: It is a smaller firm and as a woman-owned business we had opportunities to work on larger projects: the St. Croix River bridge, the Vikings stadium (U.S. Bank Stadium), the Hastings bridge crossing, the Minnesota River crossing project, and projects with the SouthWest LRT. We did a lot of work at the University of Minnesota on the Pleasant Street and North Street and Knoll area reconstructions. Those areas of the campus are more than 100 years old so we had to replace very old infrastructure, like the old steam tunnels. It was fun digging into history, finding old pavers, old utilities, and then being able to renew them.
3 What are your first impressions of Chanhassen?
A: I love it. The city staff has been great. Right now, I’m just managing this initial whirlwind of a new job. But it’s great. They’re letting me get my feet wet right now, and I will be going out and looking at all of the city’s projects.
— Unsie Zuege