Across a nearly 40-year career, patterns are bound to emerge. The time span affords a chance to spot how personal interactions led to job opportunities and major work projects. It also gives perspective on how life outside the office helps shape where we choose to align ourselves professionally—and vice versa.
“It is what it is,” Tony Dwire would say, and often does. The shorthand phrase is his way of acknowledging unchangeable limitations but also a call to action: So what will we do to move forward?
As he retires this week after 33 years with TSP and 38 years in the industry, Tony is reminded why he stayed so long in the first place. Coming to work here, he said, was one of the best decisions he’s made. His last day falls on his birthday, making the date even more bittersweet.
“It’s been a great career and I’ve had an opportunity to work with a lot of wonderful people,” Tony said. “I don’t know how else to put it. TSP’s got a lot of great stuff coming up, so it’s hard to leave. But there are other things I want to do personally, too. That’s the only thing pulling me away.”
Tony started as an electrician in his hometown of Worthington, MN, after graduating from the technical institute in nearby Jackson, MN. At the time, Tony’s high school sweetheart (and future wife), Donna, was a nursing student at what is now Augustana University. On weekend visits to Sioux Falls, he examined college life and “got the itch to do something different.”
He enrolled at South Dakota State University and left four and-a-half years later with an electrical engineering degree. By then, he was a newlywed and homeowner in Sioux Falls. He took a job locally and first worked with TSP on a temporary basis for a project at the VA Medical Center. Not quite two years later, while fueling up at a gas station on his way to another job, Tony looked over to see Dick Gustaf, then managing principal and director of engineering at TSP. Inside of a month, Tony was the firm’s newest staff member.
As a project engineer, Tony designed systems for buildings that mattered not only to his clients but also to the community. He set up a drafting table in his living room so he could mark up blueprints at home with their three children while Donna worked overnight shifts at the hospital. Along the way, colleagues recognized Tony’s calm, patient manner and level head for the assets they were in a deadline-driven industry. They asked him to provide some guidance and mentoring support for the engineering team at TSP’s office in Minnetonka, MN. As Tony finished design work on the children’s hospital, he began a new phase of his work life. It kept him on the road back-and-forth between Sioux Falls and the Twin Cities to start, and then later to TSP’s office in Rochester, MN.
TSP team members closed out the recent virtual Annual Meeting with a tribute to the way Tony has worn his many hats during more than three decades with the firm. Colleagues talked about how they got to know him best, from engineer to principal or practice leader and board member to COO. They also thought it only fitting to send Tony off with one more hat: a bucket-variety one, adorned with fishing lures to use on the lake outside his back door. A few carry the TSP logo and are custom pieces developed using in-house 3D printers.
“To say that he was dedicated to TSP is definitely an understatement. Growing up, I remember he’d leave many Sunday nights for Rochester and come back on Friday,” said Brenna Wiertzema—the eldest of Tony’s three children, who now is an established interior designer at TSP. “I appreciate everything he’s done for this company and for us as a family.”
Colleagues from Tony’s adopted community of Rochester snagged him a menu from Whistle Binkies, the grill and pub where he became a regular because it’s just down the block from his hotel home-away-from-home. Team members hid one more surprise in the box of goodies shipped to Tony’s house and embargoed until the Annual Meeting—during which Tony was named the newest recipient of the Cornerstone Medal. The honor is bestowed on those who’ve dedicated themselves to our Four Cornerstones philosophy: Leadership, Integrity, Professionalism, and Ownership.
“My only regret is I’m not going to be around in the office to see how you all knock the ball out of the park over the next 10 years here,” Tony said. “You’re all set up to do it. I’ve seen more evidence today that we can do it.”