Dean Reynolds — Moving up through the ranks at HHS


Dean Reynolds understands how the Band’s programs and services can help Band members through difficult times. A few years ago, he found himself between jobs and living at the Minobimaadiziwin transitional housing unit after the home he had been living in was vandalized.

”Since that low point, I’ve done everything I could to provide for my family and get back on my feet,” said Dean. With help from Aanjibimaadizing’s work experience (WEX) program, he was able to start a new career in the Emergency Service Department, first in the food warehouse and then as Eligibility Technician.

Now, as the new Coordinator of Emergency Services, Dean is in a position to give back to his community by helping other Band members who hit a rough patch. Whether the need is food, heat, electricity, or other services, Dean and his team are ready, willing, and able to lend a hand.

Carmen Kalk, the Executive Director of Human Services, said, ”Having Dean as the Emergency Services Coordinator is an asset to Health and Human Services, due to his community awareness and the knowledge he gained going up the ranks of the program. Dean is open to new ideas and is always willing to help.”

Dean oversees three programs (FDPIR, food shelves, and emergency services) and six employees — two in each program.
FDPIR stands for Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and is commonly known as the commodities program. This program provides food support for Band members who apply and meet the qualifications. Dean encourages Band members to contact the program to see if they are eligible. Every month, deliveries of commodities are made to Districts II and III.

The food shelves are open to anyone who is in immediate need of food assistance. Normally, clients can come in and shop for what they need, but during COVID-19, they are required to call and make an order, which will be packaged and brought to their car.

”The food packages are set up to feed a family for three to four days until they find another program like FDPIR or SNAP” (a county-run food program), Dean said. Lately, the food shelf has been receiving a lot of donations, so it is well stocked. In addition to the main food shelf in District I, Dean oversees food shelf locations in Districts II and III.

Emergency Services is a loan program to help Band members who have fallen behind on electricity, heat, or other bills, or who need help with emergency expenses, like visiting a family member in the hospital. The loans are usually paid back out of Band members’ per capita payments.

Born leader

Dean always knew he had the ability to supervise others, even back in high school, when he was the one on the football and wrestling teams who would pump up his teammates.

”I’ve always been more of a leader than a follower,” he said. ”It’s just the way I am.”

In addition to his innate leadership qualities, Dean also received support from his parents, Rosa Sam and Gene Reynolds, who always encouraged him to speak his mind.

Dean spent many years as a chef at Izatys — working his way up to head chef — and although he still has a passion for cooking, restaurant work got old.

From there, he went into construction, but eventually felt the need to get back into year-round work, so he applied for the WEX program, where he got a lot of help from Kaari Weyaus, Katye Simonsen, and Dan Pewaush.

It was WEX that helped Dean get his foot in the door at Emergency Services as a warehouse aid packing up commods. A few months later, in June of 2015, Dean was offered the position of Eligibility Technician, which he held for four years. ”I gained a lot of knowledge of this department, since I filled in at the food shelf and commods whenever needed, so it gave me the knowledge I needed for this position,” he said.

Dean is grateful to Carmen Kalk for giving him the opportunity to lead Emergency Services. ”She has taught me a lot about the position and been very supportive and helpful adjusting to the position,” said Dean. ”She is just awesome.”

The former Coordinator, Kevin Pawlitschek, and his old boss, Kristian Theisz, were also helpful in teaching Dean about the programs. ”They gave me a lot of support, walked me through step by step,” said Dean. ”I like to think of myself as a fast learner, and after they showed me each step, I took it from there.”

As he advanced through the ranks in the department, Dean’s leadership qualities were recognized, and he was selected for the Blandin Leadership Program in 2018, which he found valuable.

Commissioner Nicole Anderson said, ”It is super cool to see Band members rise to new levels of responsibility as they gain hands-on experience. Dean will do great in his new role as he is always willing to help with genuine care and a smile.”

Hard work — and a little help from the Band — has resulted in a good life for Dean, his wife Melissa, and their four kids. ”It’s been a complete 180 since I started here in 2015,” he said.

And with his leadership and experience, Band members who find themselves in need know they have someone they can count on.