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Anthony Heddlesten
November 9, 2023

Anthony Heddlesten: 2023 Early Career Award recipient

Written By: Staff


Anthony Heddlesten
Civil and environmental engineering section chief, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District Mayor, City of Riverdale, Iowa

Anthony is a civil and environmental engineer and community government leader whose impact on people and the natural world spans areas ranging from energy to emergency management.

Which engineering class made the greatest impact on you?

Dr. Harrington’s capstone class. He was my advisor throughout college as well as being my capstone professor. On our capstone team, we had at least one person from each of the different focus areas in civil and environmental engineering. Everybody played a role in our project; we presented to people from the community, and one team won the bid. My team clicked; we all believed in being aggressive with our schedules, and then we went out to play darts when everybody else stressed over finishing their projects. The course was really great for team building, learning about communication and working with customers. It is the best “real world” experience in any class.

Give us a few highlights of your professional career.

I built a 24-acre island in Peoria. We dredged 44 acres of deep-water habitat that had been filled in by sedimentation, and there wasn’t anywhere to put the sediment, so we used it to build an island. That had secondary habitat benefits for waterfowl and other wildlife, but the primary focus was overwintering habitat for fish.

At our Corps district, there had never been a major dam retrofit project until a company requested to build a hydropower plant at Red Rock Dam in Pella, Iowa—one of the biggest dams in our division. It took three to four years of design review and an additional three to four years of construction inspection. Our responsibility was to make sure that there would be no impacts to the dam, the people downstream, and its Congressionally authorized missions. It was so important that it was put on President Obama’s federal permitting dashboard. The assistant secretary of the Army (civil works), who is the highest presidential-appointed civilian advisor to the Secretary of the Army on all matters related to the Army’s civil works program, came to the groundbreaking ceremony.

Describe some of the impacts you’ve had on society as a result of your contributions.

About three days after I started as chief, we had record flooding on the Mississippi River. Afterward, we restored about 40 levee systems; we spent about $60 million. To folks who live there, our work was critical. I also did a detail for six months as the emergency management chief for the Omaha District, which focused on flood and wildfire recovery. I’ve personally responded to disasters in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. Also, the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program has restored more than 110,000 acres. My department leads that effort for our stretch of the river, so it’s cool being the supervisor and working with the teams, agencies and sponsors to do this work.

What do you enjoy about your career?

I love being able to work for our nation. I like to explain it that people generally go to the federal government with their worst and biggest problems that they couldn’t solve at a lower level. We are the nation’s engineering firm, and we’re here to help solve the things no one else could.

What do you like best?

Camp Randall Stadium or the Kohl Center or the UW Field House?
I was an avid hockey fan, so I’m going to go with the Kohl Center, even though I love football too.

Sweet Caroline or Jump Around?
Oh, that’s tough. Those are both very fun things. Am I allowed not to pick Jump Around? I feel like I have to pick Jump Around.

Flamingos or Badgers?
My yard is full of flamingos. I feel like we’ve got to go with flamingos.

Orange custard chocolate chip or anything else?
That’s a really good choice for the default one. I love Bec-Key Lime Pie. That’s probably my go-to but it didn’t exist when I was there.