Perham-Dent Public Schools' facilities director Russ Winkels has been named the Facilities Management Director of the Year in Minnesota.

Winkels was honored by his peers during the Minnesota Educational Facilities Management Professionals Association Conference and Trade Show in St. Cloud, Minn. on Sept. 30. The association consists of five regional chapters and more than 700 individuals in the areas of facilities, grounds, health and safety operations for Minnesota K-12 schools and higher education.

Winkels also earned the 2019 Outstanding Contributor Award.

"This award was a pleasant surprise, to be recognized by peers and vendors from the state of Minnesota," Winkels stated in a press release from the school district. "The MASMS group promotes networking and working with others to discuss unique and common issues that schools work with on a regular basis. Working together has saved us time and helps create positive solutions for our school buildings."

Winkels was instrumental in the start of the West Chapter 10 years ago; the chapter consists of West Central Minnesota school districts and vendors.

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Winkels was first named the technology coordinator for Perham Public Schools in 1995, when there was a network of just 15 computers with one server. He was responsible for the HVAC building automation and security cameras. He became the facilities director in 2014, during the building process of the district's new high school.

Perham-Dent High School Principal Ehren Zimmerman said Winkels has embraced the position and has done an excellent job over the past 10 years that they have worked together. He praised Winkels as a very personable individual who relates to many people.

“I appreciate how respectful Russ is of the work that our teachers, paraprofessionals, administrative assistants and kitchen staff play in the education provided to each student at PHS,” Zimmerman said in the release. “It pays great dividends to the school district and community when individuals are recognized with such honorable awards as this. We are grateful for Russ’s leadership and being a valuable member.”

Perham-Dent Superintendent Mitch Anderson said Winkels' loyalty and passion to Perham schools and the community goes unmatched.

“He takes great pride in our facilities and will go out of his way to make sure things look good for school, games, performances, tours, etc.,” Anderson said. “After completion of our new high school in 2018, Perham Schools has become a showcase for schools across the state. We have given hundreds of tours to school districts and community partners over the last three years, and the positive comments we get about design and upkeep of our K-12 facilities rise to the top. Winkels has played a critical role in sustaining that image now, three year after the newness has worn off.”

The new Perham High School is built with both sustainability and technology in mind. (Marie Johnson / Focus)
The new Perham High School is built with both sustainability and technology in mind. (Marie Johnson / Focus)

Anderson added that Winkels played a critical role in the construction, planning, designing and implementation of the new high school.

“He had a unique view of potential negative factors during this time, and would offer solutions ahead of time to avoid issues down the road. His insight is extremely valuable and appreciated. He has a common sense approach to most issues, which contractors and others appreciated during the projects,” Anderson said.