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Leadership at Public Works, Eaglecrest shifts

Future of some positions unclear

Posted: April 21, 2011 - 8:38pm

With recent retirement announcements, the future of two high-profile city positions has yet to be decided.

Public Works director Joe Buck is leaving after nine years on the job in July, while deputy director Scott Jeffers, who served more than 34 years, is retiring next week.

Current Eaglecrest manager Kirk Duncan is slated to fill Jeffers’ role next week, and will eventually take on Buck’s position.

The Eaglecrest board is responsible for filling Duncan’s spot.

Board chairman Wayne Stevens said the board doesn’t know how it will proceed yet, and it will be the topic of discussion at its May 2 meeting. He said there are a number of options to consider.

“We appreciate all the hard work Kirk’s put into it,” Stevens said. “It’s certainly a different area than when he started. We’ve got a great staff up there. We’ll be able to work through the summer season with all the projects we’ve got lined out. Hopefully after a couple meetings in early May we’ll have a better idea of what our direction will be.”

When Duncan takes over as Public Works director in July, he will then get to decide whether to fill the deputy director slot.

“As director he will have the prerogative to appoint anyone he would like or go out and advertise,” said city manager Rod Swope.

“I think initially Kirk will not fill that position — wait and see and get some time and experience under his belt and see if he needs a deputy director,” Swope said.

Duncan said he’s been able to do a lot of “cool stuff” at Eaglecrest in the last seven years, including seeing new chair lifts and increasing revenues by 70 percent.

“I’ve been really, really happy with everything that’s happened at the mountain,” he said. “I have so much to learn and learning really excites me. I couldn’t be happier.”

He credits the success of Eaglecrest to the many people who dedicate time and resources to it.

“I’d like to take on a new challenge and this was offered to me and it’s too good of an opportunity to turn down,” he said.

Duncan has met with staff in all four Public Works sectors now and is looking forward to getting his feet wet.

“The first goal that I have is actually understand all the various components of what Public Works does so I can explain it to people,” he said. “Then I want to make sure we have a long term plan. What is Public Works going to look like in 20 years? We know that Juneau’s not going to grow dramatically in the next 20 years. What we have is what we have and we want to make sure we maintain it well.”
Duncan said he will take it slowly at first, learning all the departments and how things work. He said staff does a great job now and he plans to get input from staff and will eventually make improvements wherever they may be needed.

“Everyone in Public Works should be quite proud of what they do for citizens and residents of Juneau,” he said.

Jeffers and his wife plan on staying in Juneau, but he expects to spend more chunks of time in Seattle caring for their parents as well.

“I suppose there’s some home projects I would tackle that I haven’t been willing to tackle while I’ve been employed,” he said. “My wife is just itching to travel more than we have in the past.”

Jeffers said he appreciates the experiences he’s had in the department.

“I feel fortunate to have been entrusted with more challenging roles,” he said. “While I’ve not been everything I might have hoped in those challenging roles, I hope to have made a reasonable contribution. ... One that sticks out in my mind, operation of incinerator at Juneau-Douglas treatment plant. That thing is no small challenge. I think that’s one of the things that sticks out for me over the years. I’ve been grateful to be involved in wastewater treatment, collection.”

Jeffers also appreciates being able to work on the administrative side in water as well.

“I’m grateful for having to have been able to learn as much as I have,” Jeffers said. “There are a lot of people that work hard in water and wastewater utilities. They number about 50 in just the two utilities. It’s work that is sort of invisible until the water doesn’t come out of the tap or until the toilet doesn’t flush. Our efforts are largely behind the scenes and I really appreciate the efforts of these dozens of people that make it work with really fairly few hitches.”

Buck, who was initially announced as retiring, said he’s not technically retiring.

“I’ve been Public Works director now for nine years,” he said. “It’s time for me to slip out of here for a little while, take some time off and recharge my batteries.”

He plans on staying in Juneau, taking a year or so off of work and tackling at least some of his “honey-do” list along with remodeling his house.

Buck said his years with the city have been exciting and productive.

“I think we’ve done a lot of really good things for the community as well as within the department and the city,” he said. “All the divisions in Public Works are running very well. I believe Public Works is staffed by very skilled and talented people and deliver a high level of service to the community.”

Buck said some of the most memorable things have been getting the consolidated street maintenance facility built at Sunny Point, surviving the three heaviest snow years Juneau’s seen, improvements to the water utility and water system, improvements to the wastewater system, the fluoride debate, the “very painful” process of raising the utility rates, upgrading Capital Transit and developing a solid waste management plan.

“There has been a lot of stuff we’ve done over the last nine years,” he said. “There are a lot of good projects coming too.”

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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