RIP John Wellner

Rochester lost a long time civil servant this last week. I went head to head with John on a number of issues and in the end he has a body of work that has made Rochester far safer.

John cared about many of the same issues that I do, but we didn’t always agree on how to do get these done. That said; connectivity and safety are far better today than when I moved to Rochester in 1999. Funny side note, the phrase “Engineer’s Engineer” is one that I (as an engineer) have used in both a positive and negative way. Over the past decade we gave each other plenty of colorful language.

The following overview of John’s career was provided by his friends & colleagues in Public Works. The list of projects is quite impressive.


John was an Engineer’s Engineer with over 44 years as a municipal engineer, the last 18 with the City of Rochester. He was a registered professional engineer in the State of Minnesota and held licenses with Iowa and Wisconsin during his career.

City of Rochester Career Highlights:

  1. John was a trusted resource for all of the Public Works staff. His engineering experience and practical, common sense approach to engineering challenges was respected by all of his peers and co-workers.
  2. Revamped the Rochester’s City – Owner Contract Process. His suggested improvements to the process were responsible for delivering 85% of the City’s public infrastructure. The process was embraced by the development community, contractors, and approved by city council. The improved quality of public infrastructure will have a lasting effect.
  3. John developed the foundation for the City’s Grading and Drainage Plan review and approval process. He was instrumental in developing guidelines, procedures, and standards for effective storm water management and the grading of private property to protect the health, safety and welfare of community residents.
  4. John was a strong advocate for pedestrian safety and connecting the community with sidewalks and trails. The point person for City application, submission, and delivery of Federal and State grant applications for multi-use trail projects, he oversaw the design and construction of more than 60 miles of trail in the City. His managed more than $20 million in trail projects and helped secure federal and state funding that exceeded $7 million. Some of the notable projects include:
    • Ped Bridge over Valley High Dr Fed $413K Project Total (PT): $2.1 M
    • Ped Trail along 20th St SE DNR: $100,000 PT: $300,000
    • Ped Bridge over TH14 W Fed $800,000 PT: $3.5M
    • Ped Bridge over 7th St NW Fed: $700,000 PT: $1.5 M
    • Trail along 52 W Frontage Rds PT: $300,000
    • Trail along sections of W. Circle Dr PT: $500,000
    • Path from Crossroads College to Zumbro Rvr PT: $200,000
    • Salem Rd path Fed $400,000 PT: $750,000
    • Trail E Circle Dr Viola to RCTC Fed: $800,000 DNR: $250,000 PT: $1.5 M
    • Trail along Willow Creek Corridor PT: $500,000
    • Trail along 55th St NW support Gibbs School PT: $300,000
    • Trail along Broadway So Fed: $623,000 PT: 750,000
    • Bundled trail project Fed: $825,000 PT: $1.3M
    • Eastwood to CR 11 Fed: $575,900 PT: $1.5 M
    • TH14 E Bear Cr to E Circle Dr Fed: $531,200 PT: $1.2 M
    • TH14 Broadway to Crossroads Fed: $200,000 PT: $500,000
  5. Flood Control Program – oversight manager for many years – implemented Reservoir monitoring program (real time electronic devices) as well as bathymetric surveys to monitor sediment loading of reservoirs. Oversaw repairs from 2007 and 2010 storm / flood events.
  6. City Sidewalk Repair and Replacement Program Manager – oversaw the survey and inspection of 5% of the City’s sidewalks annually resulting in a $500,000 annual replacement program.
  7. Helped champion several Safe Routes to School Program projects including; driver speed feedback signs at several elementary and middle schools.
  8. Led the newly formed Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Group.
  9. A strong advocate for the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) transition program.
  10. Secured state bridge funds for several bridge replacements including: 10th Av SE, 6th St SE, and others.
  11. Oversaw the design and construction of several regional stormwater ponds.

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