Community development specialist Brad Hentschel has watched downtown Chippewa Falls change shape. From the steady march of Riverfront Park construction to the redesign of the downtown area’s entrance, he’s worked for engineering firm SEH to consult on several high-profile city projects, roughly over the last ten years.
That’s why he decided to apply for the position of city planner, Hentschel said: “It’s kind of a natural fit.”
The city announced Tuesday that Hentschel would take over the desk of recently-retired, longtime city planner Jayson Smith. He may begin within weeks, Chippewa Falls mayor Greg Hoffman said Tuesday.
“I get to see some of the projects we designed … get implemented,” Hentschel said of the job change. “It’s rewarding to be able to see a community implement logical plans and be able to proceed with attracting growth.”
That growth — specifically the redevelopment of River Street and the development of the Spring Street and Bridge Street areas — are projects he’s looking forward to following through on, this time as a city employee.
But Hentschel cited one project as a main driver of the city’s economy: Riverfront Park.
“It’s been a catalyst for the entire downtown redevelopment,” he said. “People are excited to be in Chippewa Falls, businesses are excited and the vacancy rate for downtown businesses is very small. That creates a buzz.”
In his next role, he plans to emphasize the relationship between Chippewa Falls businesses and the broader community.
“That’ll be a very large point of emphasis,” he said. “Making sure our current businesses are engaged … and that we can still offer attractive options to retain and attract new businesses.”
Hentschel’s plate might be full in 2019. In late 2017, the city council voted to move transit manager duties — which include administering the city’s Shared Ride Taxi program — to the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. The program was previously overseen by former planner Smith. But Hentschel may take over transit manager duties after the WCWRPC’s one-year contract is up.
“As long as it’s feasible and everybody agrees, I intend to work alongside (the commission) as they work through this year, and we’ll do an evaluation at the end of the year if that’s something to bring back in house,” he said.
Hentschel completed his undergraduate studies at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis. and has master’s degrees in urban planning and public administration from UW-Milwaukee. He lives in the Chippewa Falls area with his wife Kristin and two children, six-year-old Shelby and two-year-old Ethan.
“I think it’ll be a good fit, a good opportunity to continue the progressive stance of the city within the region,” he said.