Keeley returns as Red River Regional Council director
Department head excited for future
GRAFTON – Effective Aug. 1, Dawn Keeley of Grafton took over as director of the Red River Regional Council for longtime director Julius Wangler who retired after 35 years of service to the agency in July.
Keeley and her husband John farm north of Grafton. They have three children Katharyn, Joshua and Sam. Keeley grew up in Jamestown, but has local ties to the area as her father grew up in Park River.
In her final two years of college Keeley served as the project coordinator for the South Central Regional Council and helped secure funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce/Economic Development Administration for infrastructure for the Dakota Growers Pasta Plant in Carrington.
She said that early success fueled her passion for the type of work she’s been doing for most of the past 20 years.
“That was my first brush with this type of work,” she said. “I always thought this is the kind of place you can really make a difference and that’s kind of the spirit of my whole career.”
Keeley was a former RRRC employee for 15 years. Keeley came to Grafton after graduating from Jamestown College in 1993 and worked at RRRC until 2008, serving as a disaster recovery coordinator, economic developer, small business development center regional director, and business development director.
Some of the projects she worked on include Villa DeRemer and Hancock Place on the campus of the former State Developmental Center, the buy-out project to remove houses from flood prone areas next to Leistikow Park and the Greenbelt area and the renovation of the Chase Building. She also assisted in the start up and expansion of several regional businesses.
After taking some time off, Keeley worked as a funding strategist for Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services in Grand Forks from 2010-2013.
Her duties included working extensively with western North Dakota communities adapting to the changes in North Dakota’s oil patch region most specifically working with city entities and water districts and the Western Area Water Supply Authority.
Keeley said she has a passion for Grafton and the surrounding area and is happy to be back working close to home.
“I was feeling a little disconnected from my family and my community and I really wanted to see if I could come back and make a difference,” she said.
The RRRC is not a government agency. It was established in 1969. There are eight regional councils in the state. The RRRC serves four counties including Walsh, Pembina and Grand Forks county.
The RRRC assists in economic development, disaster mitigation and recovery, riparian restoration, housing rehabilitation, historical preservation and infrastructure rehabilitation and development with local cities.
Keeley presided at her first board meeting last Thursday and said she’s in the process of getting reacquainted with city leaders in the region and their needs.
She said a few of the projects on the front burner include assessing the current status of the agency, renewing funding for the Red River Riparian project and developing a five year comprehensive economic development strategy for the region which is to be completed in June 2014.
Keeley said she feels that it’s an exciting time to be a North Dakotan and his hoping to seize on that opportunity to make things better for the region for now and in the future.
“I truly believe that North Dakota is amidst a tremendous opportunity right now,” she said. “So its up to us to provide good, quality opportunities for our children for them to be able to stay here.”