Mark Fletcher, former wastewater plant supervisor for the city, was named Palestine's new streets director Sept. 12 – the fourth employee to head up streets in three months.
“There has been so much transition,” City Manager Leslie Cloer told the Herald-Press Friday. “Mark is the best person for the city; he's from in-house, and he knows the situation the streets department is in.”
Fletcher, 53, takes the reins from John Elrod, who served as interim streets director since Rob Thames retired as public works director in August. Thames replaced long-time Public Works Director Tim Perry, who retired in July after nearly 30 years with the city.
Perry started working as public works director for the city of Athens on the day he retired from Palestine.
Having worked 33 years with the city, Fletcher, like Perry or Thames, could retire at any moment, with little notice. Cloer said this was never a consideration during the hiring process.
“All we considered is who was best suited to help move the city forward,” she said. “We [the city manager, mayor, and city council] believe Mark is the man for the job.”
In August, city officials divided the public works department into two separate entities: utilities and streets. Felipe Garcia heads up utilities, to include water, wastewater, and sewer.
With upwards of tens of millions of dollars, and a decade's worth of estimated street repairs ahead of him, Fletcher, who will be making just under $68,000 a year, said he's excited for the chance to serve the community in his new role.
“It's obvious the work is going to be non-stop,” Fletcher told the Herald-Press. “We've got a really good crew in the streets department, though, and I'm looking forward to working more with the public.”
Fletcher said one of his first tasks will be to prioritize the order of streets to be repaired.
“Streets will have to work hand-in-hand with utilities,” he said. “If we don't communicate, we could very well repair a road, just to have it torn up again for water main repair. It just makes sense to do them at the same time.”
In the coming weeks, the streets department will be test-driving a new asphalt paver the city is considering for purchase. Unaccustomed to sitting behind a desk, Fletcher said he will be with his crew.
“We'll be laying asphalt on a portion of Colorado Street,” he said. “I'm not a micromanager, but I'm not a desk-jockey, either. I imagine most days I'll be out in the city, working on something.”