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Southwest Spotlight: 45 years and counting: Privratsky a fixture at KLJ

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson engineer Jim Privratsky sits in the basement of the Stark County Courthouse on Thursday, where he started his 37-year career for L.W. Veigel Engineering.

By Katherine Grandstrand

It started with a summer job, working construction on the Medora leg of Interstate 94 after high school.

Forty-five years later, Jim Privratsky’s career at Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson in Dickinson is still going strong.

“Maybe it was just a job. I wasn’t going to school anymore,” Privratsky said. “I kind of stuck around, I guess.”

Privratsky began working at L.W. Veigel Engineering, now KLJ, after two years at Dickinson State College studying engineering.

He wasn’t sure what drew him to work for Veigel, but he has seen a lot in his long career.

Changes over the years

Privratsky joined the surveying department at Veigel while the firm was still located the basement of the Stark County Courthouse. He got to work with Louis Veigel before the company founder retired.

“He was quite the engineer,” Privratsky said. “He was real educated, hands-on. He did all his own drafting. His wife was an architect — she did all the fine stuff.

Privratsky added: “I’ve had the good fortune of working with a lot of good people. And that’s probably why I stick around, too.”

Many people have had the fortune of working with Privratsky, said Gene Jackson, a Dickinson City commissioner and former KLJ president.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a person who was more committed to his company,” Jackson said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a person who was more committed to making sure that a job was done right, making sure that things were built right.”

Over the years, surveying has embraced the use of GPS technology and all-terrain vehicles. When Privratsky started working, surveyors used to walk the fields, and his boss had an old Army Jeep as a four-wheel drive vehicle for tough terrain.

“You walked everything, you measured by a 100-foot steel tape, so that end changed.” Privratsky said.

Through the agency’s work with the North Dakota Department of Transportation, Privratsky has been part of crews for some major southwest North Dakota roads, including Highway 22 and Villard Street through Dickinson and the widening of U.S. Highway 85 from Watford City to Alexander.

‘I still enjoy what I do’

Though Privratsky has concentrated on road projects recently, it’s not his only area of expertise, Jackson said.

“Over the many years, he has done work on just about every kind of project you could imagine,” Jackson said. “City water and sewer facilities, city streets, along with the major highway work — Jim has just about done everything over the years.”

As KLJ has grown, it has added offices throughout the Midwest, so Dickinson-based crews don’t travel as much as they used to, Privratsky said.

“Our office used to go all the way to the east side of North Dakota,” Privratsky said. “I work in communities all over and you meet the nicest people.”

Privratsky has lived in Dickinson his whole life.

His wife of 29 years, Sherri, works for the Department of Transportation and his son, Jeff Privratsky, attends DSU while working at iKeating Furniture in east Dickinson.

Jim Privratsky is often asked why he hasn’t retired.

“You have to do something, don’t you?” He asked with a chuckle. “I still enjoy what I do. I’m kind of working part-time, so it makes it a lot easier, too.”

He doesn’t have any set plans.

“It’s nice to be in the position when you know you can retire tomorrow or do whatever, I think,” Jim Privratsky said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206
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