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Bemidji city engineer retires today

While his co-workers packed for their big move into the city's new Public Works Facility, City Engineer Brian Freeberg was packing up for retirement.

After two stints with the city of Bemidji, Freeberg retires today as the city's engineer.

"I'll miss it," he said simply.

When former City Engineer Mike Metso resigned in 2001, Freeberg joined the city as its interim city engineer. In 2003, he took over the position part-time and then went full-time in 2005.

He previously was city engineer from 1980-84.

Freeberg, who will turn 65 later this month, has actually been planning to retire for a while. In fact, the city already has hired his replacement, City Engineer Craig Gray, who began working with the city last fall.

"The city will be in good hands," said Freeberg, who stayed on as he taught Gray about the city policies and projects.

Freeberg said he had planned to work until the end of May, but has decided to retire about one month earlier than expected.

"Craig is a remarkably competent fellow," Freeberg said.

Gray, who last was the city engineer in Anoka, Minn., said he has known Freeberg for about seven years, routinely seeing him at conferences.

"The ability, the opportunity, to have seven or eight months worth of transition time ... has been very beneficial to me," said Gray, who joined the city of Bemidji's staff in mid-July. "Brian has so much knowledge about the history of the city."

During the transition Gray worked on the city's current and future construction projects while Freeberg himself was able to focus on events center planning.

"I've really appreciated working with Brian," Gray said. "He has so much knowledge about engineering. It's been very beneficial for me."

As city engineer, Freeberg was charged with overseeing the city's construction projects and managing the city's engineering department, which includes technicians, GIS staff and summer help.

During his tenure, Freeberg said he worked with many construction projects, highlighting those that improved local streets such as America Avenue and those in ward one near Bemidji State University. He also mentioned the "cross streets project" which improved Seventh to 15th streets between Bemidji and Irvine avenues.

Freeberg first came to Bemidji in 1965, working from then until 1968 with the U.S. Public Health Service.

He worked on a construction project in town in 1968 and then went to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities for engineering school.

After graduating, he joined a consulting firm in Wausau, Wis., before returning to the Bemidji area in 1972 to work with Stewart and Walker.

He served as the city engineer from 1980-84, leaving then to pursue opportunities in the private sector, including the founding of Freeberg & Grund, a Bemidji engineering firm. He sold his interest in the company before returning to the city's staff.

Freeberg also served as an associate professor at Bemidji State University in 1980, teaching a course in environmental studies.

While looking forward to retirement, Freeberg said he is considering part-time job opportunities and plans to enjoy the outdoors. One thing he does not plan to do, however, is leave Bemidji, which is home for him and his wife, Theresa, and his two stepdaughters.