Fischer appointed to fourth term as county engineer

Doug Fischer, who was reappointed by the Anoka County Board May 12 to a fourth, four-year term as county engineer, is a third generation civil engineer in his family.

Doug Fischer
Doug Fischer

Both his father and grandfather were civil engineers, so it was natural for him to decide on that career path growing up in Massillon in northeast Ohio.

But it was his success as a high school football player that earned him a full athletic scholarship to Iowa State University, where he lettered all four years as a linebacker while receiving a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering in 1985.

“I had aspirations to play football in the NFL, but they did not,” Fischer said.

Instead, Fischer began his civil engineer career as a structural designer with the consulting firm of Black & Veatch in its Overland Park, Kansas, office and then at a construction site in Fort Worth, Texas.

Homesickness led him to return to Ohio where he joined a consulting firm in Cleveland, then he moved to Minneapolis for personal reasons to join BRW, now URS, according to Fischer.

It was while he was with BRW that be became familiar with Anoka County. “I was involved in a lot of projects in the county,” Fischer said.

These included the intersection at Round Lake Boulevard and Highway 10 intersection, the Main Street reconstruction in the Riverdale area and the Round Lake Boulevard bridge over the railroad tracks, he said.

In these projects, Fischer said he worked closely with county highway department staff and in 1991 he took the opportunity to come to work for the county as a design engineer and was later promoted to assistant county engineer.

He has been with the county since then except for a three-year spell with the Washington County Highway Department from 1998 to 2001 where he was deputy director for the transportation division, responsible for not only highways, but also regional rail authority activities.

However, Fischer continued to live in Anoka County with his family. “In October 2001, I was asked to come back to Anoka County as director of highways,” Fischer said.

The idea was that Fischer would become county engineer when Jon Olson’s term was up in 2002 and that’s what happened in May of that year, he said.

Olson had been promoted to division manager for public services, a job that required him to oversee not only the highway department, but also the transit office and the parks and recreation department among others.

State law requires county boards to appoint county engineers for four-year terms.

The resolution approved unanimously by the county board states that Fischer “has distinguished himself by his thoroughness, his professionalism and his commitment to the transportation needs of the county.”

“I am proud to vote to reappoint Doug as our county engineer,” said Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah.

Fischer has enjoyed his tenure as county engineer, he said.

He has a great staff, which his makes job a lot easier, Fischer said. “I am part of a team,” he said.

Last year, Fischer’s duties increased. When Olson announced his retirement, the county board eliminated the public works division manager and split those duties between Fischer, who became division manager for transportation, and Parks and Recreation Director John VonDeLinde, who was named division manager for parks and community services.

In his new role as a division manager, Fischer is responsible for not only the highway department, but also the transit office, the county surveyor’s office and the GIS department.

His added responsibilities has meant attending more meetings as a representative of the county, Fischer said.

As a result, Fischer has handed off some of the work that he previously did in the highway department, he said.

Fischer is a member and has served as president of both the Minnesota County Engineers Association and the Minnesota Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Two years ago he traveled to a state in Russia with a group from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration “to share how we do things and learn from each other,” especially dealing with highway issues in harsh winters that are experienced in Minnesota and the Russian state, according to Fischer.

“It was an awesome experience,” Fischer said.

Recent tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine and other issues caused the last visit to be canceled, he said. “This is a non-political exchange, but the State Department does not see it that way,” Fischer said.

The Russians are scheduled to come to Minnesota this year and Fischer hopes the program can resume, he said.

Fischer lives in Blaine with his wife, Karrie. They have four children and two grandchildren.