Nancy Johnson Dent lifts a bottle of water with two fingers as if to illustrate the ease with which it can be harnessed and put to good use.
“The neat thing about water is that it’s so calming and cool,” says Nancy, a civil engineer specializing in water resources management. “But the power behind it and the destruction it can cause are fascinating.”
Capturing and managing water is a passion that Nancy has turned into a 20-plus-year career. As a Barr vice president with expertise in hydrologic and hydraulic analysis, flood management, mine water management, and dam hydraulics, she leads many of Barr’s major water management projects.
Nancy, who spent part of her childhood in northeastern Minnesota, had no idea she could make a career out of water management. In college, she dabbled in computer science and accounting. And what she knew about engineering sounded dull. But then a friend told her about engineers who work on dams and floodplains.
“I said, ‘Now that sounds like fun.’ And that was it – I switched to civil engineering.”
After 18 years in Barr’s Minneapolis office, Nancy longed to return to northern Minnesota. She continues to lead projects throughout the Midwest from the company’s Duluth office. In 2010, she became the first woman elected to Barr’s board of directors. It adds up to a daunting workload, but Nancy says she enjoys every aspect.
“I never thought I could have so much fun at work. If I had to decide between working on a dam break or sewing or quilting at home – which I also love to do – it would be a difficult choice.”
Nancy also enjoys outdoor activities, camping, and traveling with her husband.