Essential Worker Spotlight: Joe Leahy

Joe Leahy

Building utilities mechanic helps keep campus running during pandemic

Joseph Leahy, 54, has worked continuously during the COVID-19 pandemic as a building utilities mechanic on campus at Inver Hills Community College. Joe works the day shift—7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. His duties in this role are extensive. He is responsible for general repairs and key fob support as well as the maintenance, repair and operation of heating/cooling systems for all campus buildings. Those systems include:

  • Boilers
  • Chillers
  • Ventilation systems
  • Building automation systems

Joe started working in the Operations department at Inver Hills in 2018. His previous work experience is also extensive. He worked at West Group as a software engineer, managed and operated a pest control business, served as a project manager for a roofing company, and handled maintenance functions for a rental property.

Joe earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Business Management from Saint John’s University in St. Joseph, Minnesota, in 1988. He also has a Class 2-C Low Pressure Boiler license and a Structural Pest Control Applicator license.

Essential employees defined¹

Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19


  • Workers who support the education of pre-school, K–12, college, university, career and technical education, and adult education students, including professors, teachers, teacher aides, special education and special needs teachers, ESOL teachers, para-educators, apprenticeship supervisors, and specialists.
  • Workers who provide services necessary to support educators and students, including but not limited to, administrators, administrative staff, IT specialists, media specialists, librarians, guidance counselors, school psychologists and other mental health professions, school nurses and other health professionals, and school safety personnel.
  • Workers who support the transportation and operational needs of schools, including bus drivers,crossing guards, cafeteria workers, cleaning and maintenance workers, bus depot and maintenance workers, and those that deliver food and supplies to school facilities.
  • Workers who support the administration of school systems including, school superintendents and their management and operational staff.
  • Educators and operational staff facilitating and supporting distance learning.

Workers to ensure continuity of building functions, including but not limited to security and environmental controls (e.g., HVAC), building transportation equipment, the manufacturing and distribution of the products required for these functions, and the permits and inspections for construction supporting essential infrastructure

More about Joe…

Originally from Afton, Minnesota, Joe graduated from Stillwater High School, Class of 1984. Joe and his wife, Ann, have been married almost 25 years. Ann is a CPA. Joe and Ann have two children, Danny, 22, and Shannon, 19. Danny is a senior at UW–River Falls, and Shannon is a sophomore at St. Kate’s. The kids play baseball and softball at their respective colleges.

Joe’s family has two dogs, Torii, a golden retriever, and Lucy, a COVID rescue puppy. In his free time, Joe enjoys snowmobiling, hiking, softball and music. He likes a variety of music; his favorite artists are Johnny Cash, Van Morrison, Jackson Browne, Zac Brown Band, and Jimmy Buffett. His favorite place to hike is Scenic State Park near the family cabin.

Joe and his family reside in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Joe Leahy family gallery

One word that best describes your time at Inver Hills:


Joseph Leahy Q & A

What do you like most about your job at Inver Hills?

I learn something new just about every day.

Why did you choose operations as your career field?

I feel that I am good at solving problems and like to work with my hands outside an office environment.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your life on the job?

Initially, there were lots of changes due to protocol that needed to be followed. Now, the biggest difference is that campus remains quieter due to the pandemic. I do miss seeing the faculty, staff and students.

Three words that describe you as an operations professional:

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job?

The most challenging is to juggle various projects and maintenance while attending to more urgent issues. The rewarding part for me is solving problems.

What is one thing every operations professional needs to know?

Be willing to learn.

What person has influenced you the most in life?

My wife, Ann.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

Up north at the family cabin on a small lake northeast of Grand Rapids.

Joseph Leahy 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Baseball
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Ireland
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Outward Bound Winter Survival
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Quit job 2) Buy year’s supply of pizza 3) Buy world’s best snowmobile
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Schitt’s Creek
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Build my own cabin
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Penguin
  9. Dream occupation: Meteorologist
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Jimmy Buffett
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Play guitar
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Climate change
Learn more about Inver Hills Community College by contacting:

Admissions Team
College Center

Learn more about the Operations department at Inver Hills by contacting:

Paul DeMuth
Director of Operations
Inver Hills Community College
Dakota County Technical College

¹ SOURCE: U.S. Department of Homeland Security > Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency > Office of the Director

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