A Look at Mayor Brandon Bochenski’s First Year of Leadership
By Marla DeFoe
Most people in the Greater Grand Forks region know Brandon Bochenski. The 39-year-old Blaine, MN native came to Grand Forks to attend the University of North Dakota in 2001 as a highly-touted hockey player. After three seasons at UND where he was named an All-American and a Hobey Baker Award Finalist, Brandon went on to a successful 15-year professional hockey career that took him all over the world in the AHL, NHL, and KHL.
After retirement from hockey in 2017, Brandon and his family returned to Grand Forks, ND to make it their permanent home. “I always knew this is where we wanted to end up,” said Brandon. “Grand Forks is a great place to raise kids and be part of a community.” Brandon and his wife Jenny have three children: Sylvia (12), Henry (9), and Charlie (7).
One would think that after years of the day-to-day grind of professional hockey, the late-night travel, the early morning workouts, and sleeping in hotel rooms night after night, that he would be content with putting his feet up during retirement. You would be wrong.
After returning to Grand Forks, Brandon finished his degree in Business Economics from UND. He got into property development and construction, and established KHL Investments, LLC and Barys Construction. Not to mention attending various soccer, volleyball, softball, baseball, and hockey games for his kids. Grand Forks has truly become his home.
So what more could a former professional athlete/businessman/family man do for his community? Why not run for Mayor. After a successful campaign, Brandon was elected Mayor of Grand Forks in June of 2020. When asked why he decided to run for mayor, Brandon said, “This was my way to give back to the community that has supported me.” He continued, “With my travel throughout the world, I felt that I could use that experience to be more involved in city leadership.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Brandon took his oath of office amid an unprecedented global pandemic. That didn’t stop him from always looking forward. “We never stopped planning for the future,” he said. “We could come out of the pandemic in a limp or a sprint. We chose to sprint.”
Brandon’s forward-thinking and business-focused mind has already returned dividends in his short time as mayor. Grand Forks has seen four big mixed-use developments approved with tax incentives ushered by the City and other taxing entities – BEACON, Block “V”, Memorial Village, and Lyon’s Auto, $116 million worth of development, are all moving forward in Grand Forks. Recently announced is an agriculture industry development and enhancement facility that will bring hundreds of new jobs to the region.
Even with the city’s recent success, Brandon continues to look forward. He sees redevelopment for both the Grand Cities Mall and Columbia Mall with quality-of-life amenities as part of public-private sector partnerships and continued commitment to infrastructure development and improvement of essential city services.
Brandon’s move into politics as mayor is part of a larger shift in local leadership. Grand Forks Sheriff Andy Schneider was elected in 2019, Colonel Timothy J. Curry was named Vice Commander of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at the Grand Fork Air Force Base in 2020 and Andy Armacost was named UND’s new president in 2019. “We all bring new energy and new ideas to our positions,” Brandon said. “We all have had big shoes to fill, and I feel like we are using our experience and new ideas to further the community as a whole.”
Brandon chooses to lead by example. “I am willing to put in long hours and do the work,” he said. “I would never ask anyone to do something I myself would not be willing to do.” Brandon would also be the first to admit he can’t do all of this work alone. He credits his city staff as a key to his success. “I inherited a good team.”
Any strong leader needs a strong foundation to lean on. Brandon credits his family and faith with his success. “My faith helps me lead,” he said. “I came from a broken home, and my faith gives me the confidence I need to be strong and fearless.” He also credits his wife and children for building a strong family foundation. “I look at it like this: if I personally have my life in order, I can have a stronger family. If I have a solid family life, I can help build a strong neighborhood. If you have a solid neighborhood, I can build a strong city. But it all starts with me, and at home.”
As he looks toward the future, he sees opportunity for Grand Forks to continue to grow and be a destination for people looking for a community with business growth, friendly people, recreational activities, and job opportunities. “I’ll never stop looking forward,” Brandon said. “This is an amazing community. This is my home.” A home that he will continue to work to make better every day. G
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From Issue 1, 2021
PHOTOS Submitted and MJD Photography by Monica Danielson