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There are few people in this world who are willing to tell it like it is. After all, it is easier to sugarcoat something rather than present the unedited truth. This is not Gary Dondlinger.

Gary is a straight shooter. Just about anyone who has worked with him over the years has experienced his unwavering ability to say what’s on his mind.

Early Days

Gary was raised in Minneiska; a small Minnesota town in Wabasha County, situated along the Mississippi River. He attended school just up the road in Weaver, MN at a one-room schoolhouse.

As he recalled, “Eight grades, one-room schoolhouse. We didn’t learn very much.”

Weaver old map


After graduating high school in 1974, he spent four years working for a canning company before joining Swanson’s Heavy Moving Company in La Crosse.

It was here he began his career in pile driving and deep foundation work. Swanson’s specialized in driving foundations for structures such as the La Crosse Center and a new power plant for Dairyland Power in Alma, WI.

Dairyland Power Alma


In 1982, Brennan Superintendent (and former classmate) Bob Calvey encouraged Gary to apply to work on the four-year Winona Floodwall Winona Flood Control and Waterfront Development Project. He was hired and began his 37-year career working with guys like Bill Walleser, Cy Mohn, Ralph Heaser, and Tommy Mohn on the new floodwall. He quickly fit in as a hard worker.

As he recounted Bill Walleser, a long-time superintendent at Brennan who expected a lot from those who worked with him, “Bill liked me. I could do no wrong.”

1982 Winona Floodwall Project_Roger Binsfeld, Bob Calvey, and Gary Dondlinger


Most of Gary’s early years were spent on small projects. From work at the Lake City Marina on Lake Pepin to railroad bridge timber cribbing repairs in La Crosse, dock projects, and even barge salvage projects, Gary spent the beginning of his Brennan career working along the Upper Mississippi River.

Within four years he was running his own crew.

L4B Timber Cribbing & Cell Repairs 3_farmer


Gary also got involved in lock and dam projects. He participated in a Lock 2 machinery project in the early 1990s and spent seven years working on bulkhead slot installations on multiple lock and dams along the Upper Mississippi. He typically oversaw the work on the upstream end of the locks. 

1995 L4B Timber Cribbing & Cell Repairs 26 Gary Dondlinger and Mike Boser


Some of the larger jobs Gary was involved in included our first remediation project in Gary, IN for U.S. Steel. He worked with Jim O’Neill and several other legendary employees to drive piling to shore up the embankments and section off parts of the river.

2002 Lock and Dam 2 Bulkhead Slot Replacement_Gary Dondlinger


Gary did some large expansion projects for utilities. He worked the Open Cell Sheet Pile™ Wall Project for Clay Boswell's, a very large power plant owned by Minnesota Power near the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

In 2007, he was also involved in a high-profile remediation project for Dow Chemical on the Tittabawassee River.

2007 Minnesota Power Boswell Project_Nick Vetch, Eric Von Arx, Gary Dondilinger, Cohasset, MN


Gary is well-known for finding solutions and not wasting time doing so. When asked how he got the nickname “Farmer,” he explained that it was actually due to his impatience. Danny (Big Boy) Maust gave him the name, as a joke in passing and it stuck.

2016 ADM Barge Terminal Rehab, Havana, IL_MIke Binsfeld, Gary Dondlinger


Gary Dondlinger's ability to be a straight shooter earned him a lot of respect in our industry.

Over the past 37 years, many of us have had the opportunity to work with Gary. His knack for cutting through “BS” and getting the job done right is contagious.

We are grateful for the years Gary dedicated to the company and proud that his two sons - Levi and Kelvin - have chosen to follow in his footsteps, carrying on the Dondlinger legacy here at Brennan.

--Thank you, Gary.

2019 Gary Dondlinger Retirement Speech at the Holiday Party