Spotlight Series: Shawn Herhusky

The BBER is happy to share with you a series of interviews featuring some of our past project partners and stakeholders.  

These amazing people have some pretty interesting jobs, so we’re bringing you a fun peek into their work-world along with some of their personal facets. This series will be ongoing, so if you have anyone you’d like to nominate as a potential Spotlight feature, put it in the comments or send us an email at [email protected]. Enjoy!

Spotlight on Shawn Herhusky

Shawn has been a community developer with the Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation in Eveleth, Minnesota, for about three months. Previously, he served as the manager for workforce strategy at Essentia Health. Longtime friend and fellow workforce board member of BBER Director Monica Haynes, Shawn has been an advocate and champion for much of the BBER's work, especially the bureau’s workforce development research on the benefits cliff.

What does a typical day look like in your job?

A typical day involves a good amount of grant management and advocacy. The agency has several initiatives going right now, including an innovative housing program as well as community development grants that build and diversify the local economy or address social constraints. I’m also involved in a variety of other initiatives, including addressing the childcare shortage and redevelopment of cities’ downtowns. 

What do you like best about your current job?

I enjoy the variety of different initiatives I get to be a part of in this role. I have the privilege to work with some of the best people in our area on some of the biggest challenges. One day, I might be scoring grant applications for the programs the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation offers; the next, I am at a chamber event; and then, a meeting about the childcare shortage in Northeastern Minnesota. 

The people I work with are deeply committed to making the Iron Range a fantastic place to live and work, and that makes it extremely rewarding to come to work each day.

What about your current job do you find most challenging?

The challenges in Northeastern Minnesota are all interconnected at some level as one giant complex system, which can make the task of addressing those challenges seem overwhelming. We can’t talk about how to address the labor force shortage without also talking about how we need housing at a variety of price points. Even if we have housing, we need to tackle the challenge of affordable and stable childcare. Then we need activities and cultural events to keep the workers engaged in the community, so they want to stay here. The key is to figure out where you can have real leverage and impact to move the work forward.

If you could snap your fingers and solve any problem facing our community, what would it be?

Definitely childcare. The model to make childcare work for both the business owner and the parent is extremely challenging. It’s an expense for the parent yet unprofitable for the business owner.

What is the most recent thing you’ve read (besides email)?

I just wrapped up a book called How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Factors that Determine the Fate of Every Project from Home Renovations to Space Exploration and Everything in Between by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner. It’s a solid book on why some big projects fall apart and others succeed.

What is something (knowledge or a skill) you would like to learn? 

Sailing. I took a brief lesson on the Hjordis a few years back with my wife at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, and I’ve been extremely interested in learning more.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that has helped you in your career?

 Never stop learning. It’s an investment in yourself. You can lose a job or lose a title, but no one can take a skill away from you once learned.

Photo: Shawn with wife Jaime.

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