Public Works director retires after 25 years

By Sara Bruestle | Jun 05, 2013
Photo by: Sara Bruestle Larry Waters retired from his position as Public Works director on May 31. He had worked for the city of Mukilteo for nearly seven years.

A long career in public works turned Larry Waters into “Mr. Fix It” for Mukilteo. It was fun for him to figure out the best way to fix a street or maintain the stormwater system.

After nearly seven years leading the city’s Public Works Department, Waters has retired. His last day of work was May 31.

Waters, 62, of Picnic Point, has overseen Public Works for six Washington cities over 25 years. For four of the other five cities he’s worked for, he has also been the Public Works director.

“I like to see stuff getting done and improved for the public, and the best way to do that is being in the public sector,” Waters said. “It was rewarding to make decisions to get things fixed, things done right. It just has always been interesting, fun.”

As Public Works director, Waters was in charge of maintaining Mukilteo’s streets, stormwater systems, parks and buildings, as well as some city vehicles.

His accomplishments include the Pavement Preservation Program, which has repaved more than 20 miles of streets in the last six years with chip seal, and the Harbour Reach Drive Extension Project, which will extend Harbour Reach Drive to Beverly Park Road.

“A secondary access in and out of the city will substantially reduce carbon impact on the city because it’s going to reduce thousands of extra miles of travel for people who don’t have to go to SR-525,” Waters said.

“It will also open up pedestrian and bicycle access we don’t have right now. It’s really going go be a positive improvement.”

Before Mukilteo, Waters was first the Public Works director for Normandy Park – “another bluff community, just like this one.” He was there for three years.

He then transferred to the city of Snohomish and was its Public Works director for five years. After that, he was the director for Pullman.

He wasn’t in Pullman too long before he transferred to Lynnwood to be manager of a $33 million project to expand about 7 miles of Highway 99, adding sidewalks and transit lanes from Edmonds to Lynnwood.

After the job in Lynnwood, he transferred to Mountlake Terrace to become a Public Works director again.

“Each [job] after Pullman was a bigger job, more responsibility, more people,” he said. “Lynnwood was sort of a ‘going off.’ I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a Public Works director anymore.

“But there were just too many things I didn’t have control over as just a normal line worker, so I took the opportunity to get back into a director position at Mountlake Terrace when I finished [in Lynnwood].”

Waters was Public Works director for Mountlake Terrace for five years before moving to Mukilteo in 2007.

He said when he started at Mukilteo he basically had no staff – around that time, a lot of city employees had either quit or retired. He wasn’t sure of what he had done, but as it turned out, working for Mukilteo was a great decision.

“It’s the best job I’ve had, compared to all of the other cities,” Waters said. “It’s just a neat city, with a good council, good mayor, good staff. It’s been great. We’ve just done some really neat things in the last six years.”

Waters said he’ll miss the good staff and residents he’s been privileged to work with in Mukilteo over the years.

Likewise, Mayor Joe Marine said he and the city staff have been very happy with Waters. He said it was sad to see Waters go because staff department heads are “like family.”

“He’s been very professional, but at the same time he could enjoy the job,” Marine said. “He was a very good mix that way.

“He’s put in a lot of time working for cities in Snohomish County, and now he gets to enjoy his retirement. I wish him the best.”

Councilmember Emily Vanderwielen said she found Waters to be invaluable in his knowledge and expertise of city operations.

“He was really great to work with,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better Public Works director.”

Waters and his wife, Barb, moved to Bend, Ore., Monday after 33 years in Washington. They decided to retire in Oregon because they “miss the sun.” He’s from Montana; she’s from Minnesota.

“We’re going to give it a year, to see how retirement works,” he said. “If we’re getting restless and bored, and not feeling very productive, we’ll do something else.”

In retirement, Waters is looking forward to the hobbies he hasn’t had much time for, including biking, playing the piano, reading and volunteering.

If he gets bored with that, he said he might get back into teaching; before he worked for government, Waters was a high school science teacher.

“We may just stay retired, but we’ll find productive things to do,” Waters said. “There are a lot of years left to contribute to society, so we’ll be trying to do that.”

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