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County revamps public works

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Los Alamos > Shelton: Changes expected to bring greater efficiency

By Arin McKenna

 

As part of Los Alamos County’s continuing efforts to streamline operations and reduce the budget, Public Works Director Philo Shelton has put together a significant reorganization in his department.

The change was precipitated by Tom Roach’s retirement. Roach has been Paving Division Manager for the past 14 years.

The restructuring will combine the Traffic and Pavement divisions into one division —the Traffic and Streets Division.

Nancy Talley has been named manager of the new division. Talley has been with Traffic for 23 years, and until the reorganization was manager of that division.

"This is a good match for me," Talley said. "I enjoy field work. I enjoy a challenge. This is going to be learning something new responsibilities and a new challenge. And I love a good challenge.”

Talley said the county has wanted to move toward a merging of Traffic and Paving for years.

"Traffic and Streets have complementary responsibilities, so it's a really good fit for those two to be together," Talley said.

The merger not only reduces the need for one division manager (there will now be a superintendent in charge of paving operations), it should allow the department to run more efficiently. It also reduces the need for two temporary employees.

"These groups work closely together and have similar qualifications, so by having a larger team and a pool of employees, we won't need to fill in with temporaries. If you have a large project you can borrow staff from each other," Shelton said.

"Their work is focused on the roadway, a complete street system. So this gets their interests together. There were times, for example, when pavement would go out and seal a road but the striping crew was not ready to stripe. So those kinds of coordination issues are better managed under one division instead of being separate."

The reorganization also makes Transit a separate division of Public Works. Until now, it fell under Traffic’s auspices.

Talley began preliminary planning for a Transit department seven years ago, and has managed the department since it went into operations more than five years ago.

"I will definitely miss working with transit," Tally said. "Seven years ago, when I first started working toward transit, I knew all along that eventually it would become large enough that it needed to be its own division. I'm really excited at how transit's progressed and grown and how successful it's become. It's time for transit to be its own division and start moving forward."

"The thing with transit is, it has its own enterprise fund. It has separate revenues dedicated from the NCRTD, federal grants and then the balance is general fund. It has its own operations and business requirements that really merit its own division," Shelton said. "It has 40 employees, so it's a very large division. So it's just better alignment of duties."

Shelton will be Acting Transit Division manager. Jill Carothers is overseeing the transit administration functions and Mike Davis is overseeing the transit fixed route operations.

The Environmental Services Division will also see a few changes. Tom Nagawiecki has been promoted to a management analyst and will add the oversight of administrative functions to his other duties. Leroy Chacon will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations. Shelton will be acting division manager of Environmental Services as well.

“We work well as a team and will continue to do that, bringing efficient and excellent services to the community,” Nagawiecki said.

When asked about the decision to not fill the management positions for Environmental Services and Transit, Shelton responded, "I'm keeping them open so I can fill internally. I have a good team of employees, and there's not an urgent need to fill them. I think it would be better to work with the team and work on their career enhancements," Shelton said.

"Right now we're trying to implement succession planning in Environmental Services and Transit. There are two people in each division that have the opportunity for management down the road. 

"It takes a certain level of qualifications and years of experience managing and supervising people. I want to give these people a chance. So it's just kind of a plan for succession and working toward developing them as managers."

Nagawiecki, Carothers and Engineer Brian Aragon are currently enrolled in the New Mexico EDGE (Education Designed to Generate Excellence in the Public Sector) certified public manager program, and other employees have expressed interest in the training as well. The program typically takes two years to complete.

Shelton is unconcerned about the additional work load of managing those two divisions for the time being.

"It is extra work, but they’re very capable employees, so I think we will team well," Shelton said. “I've been managing Environmental services that way since I started, as a team."

"I think the reorganization is good. I think it's going to be good for the county, I think it's going to be good for the residents and I think it's going to be good for the staff as well," Talley said.