Farewell from the Public Works director

By Larry Waters, Former Public Works Director | Jun 05, 2013

After almost seven years as the Mukilteo Public Works director and 35 years of public service, 30 of it here in Washington state, I want to say I’m grateful for having had the good fortune to finish up my public service career here in Mukilteo.

Of the five other cities I have worked for over the last 25 years, it is, without question, the best city experience I have had. In four of the five other cities I have been in the same Public Works director position.

It’s fairly simple why I feel Mukilteo is a great city and why it has been a great place to work. I think two words explain it best: teamwork and accomplishments.

By teamwork I mean the council (at least four of the seven have to work together with progressive, positive thinking), staff and citizens all working together to find solutions to issues, and ways to improve the city (versus always voting “no”).

So what accomplishments has this teamwork delivered to the residents, businesses and visitors to Mukilteo?

Well, if I may be somewhat bold, the list of accomplishments is impressive, and all in just the last six years.

Here are a few of the major ones that city staff have completed, under the quality leadership of Mayor Joe Marine and supported by at least four of the seven councilmembers.

Of course our boards, commissions and involved residents all played a role in getting these fine accomplishments approved and completed:

• A beautiful new City Hall that is heavily used by the community and is energy efficient;

•A world-class community center that is a solid asset to the community;

• Rebuilt and vastly upgraded Lighthouse Park. It is so popular now that in the summer parking must often be managed;

• Preserved more than 20 miles of street pavement;

• Acquired large areas of Japanese Gulch with the hope of preserving the entire west side of the gulch;

• Have been instrumental in the process to get the Department of Defense abandoned fuel tank area transferred to the Port of Everett.

• Initiated a city-wide street sweeping program (after purchasing our own sweeper);

• Have laid the ground work for establishing a second arterial entrance and exit at the south end of the city with the donation of right of way by Boeing to the city and purchase of the needed remaining right-of-way for the extension of Harbour Reach Drive to Beverly Park Road. This new transportation project will also facility additional economic expansion of commercial and industrial property; and

• Completed an excellent trail system in Big Gulch, and through working with volunteers have started a great trail system in the parts of Japanese Gulch that we own.

Of note is that all this work, more than $30 million worth, has been done within budget, less than 4 percent change orders and no claims or lawsuits – an impressive achievement.

Besides these capital accomplishments city staff has, with a smaller staff than most cities, maintained parks, repaired streets, managed vegetation in the rights-of-way, kept the city’s stormwater system functioning, and protected citizens (we have quality fire and police departments).

In my 25-year career of overseeing Public Works in six different Washington cities, this was the first time I had experienced such successful project management. And for the future, budgeting is in place for the city to preserve the remaining 40 miles of streets in the next five to six years.

Over these six years we have worked with the Mukilteo Water and Wastewater District to solve stormwater erosion problems in Big Gulch as part of their multi-million dollar sewer line replacement project.

In conjunction with the Big Gulch sewer project extensive hiking and biking trails were built, providing residents and visitors a major recreational asset (thank you Mukilteo Water and Wastewater District for working so well with us).

We have improved right-of-way mowing through the purchase of a new boom mower.

Through active assistance and guidance we have helped a volunteer group build an off-lease dog park and create a community garden area that annually produces food for people in need. The list could go on.

How did all this happen? Teamwork and good leadership at the top. For that to happen it requires that three things come together: great leadership, great employees and vision.

I have worked for several mayors and city managers or administrators over the years. From that past experience, I will say that Mayor Joe Marine can be credited with quality leadership and making sure the city has quality employees.

Besides being 100 percent committed to the residents of Mukilteo, he works hard to be creative and to listen to both employees and residents. To his and the city’s credit, he works from a foundation of integrity and solid standards.

Naturally, those qualities count for little if a city does not have good employees. Fortunately, professionalism, competency and integrity is the standard for Mukilteo city government.

Finally, for a city to be great there must be vision. Our new Rosehill Community Center and City Hall are the embodiment of vision for Mukilteo, something most of our council and citizens came together on to get constructed.

Second to that achievement is a council that took a bold step forward to preserve pavement with a chip sealing process. While it is not well liked by everyone, it is saving the city’s pavement and, in the process, keeping the streets from falling apart (as they are in many other cities).

Because of our chip seal program Mukilteo now has some of the best streets in the region.

So if you are a Mukilteo resident reading this, feel proud to be a resident of Mukilteo, and proud of the accomplishments that your mayor, council and city staff, with the help of many, many citizens, have accomplished over the last six years.

Think about that when you read a Beacon column about how poorly the council or staff is doing, and when you are contemplating who to elect to the mayor position or the council. Thanks for reading.

Larry Waters was the Public Works director for the city of Mukilteo from 2007-2013. He retired on May 31.

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