When Chris George accepted an offer to work for the Town of Eclectic as public works supervisor, he decided he would not be one to sit in an office.
“I am not managing the guys by telling them what to do,” George said. “I’m out there with them doing it. It gives you a first-hand perspective on the job.”
As a result of this newly-created position and George’s experience running a farm and businesses, the town is seeing a positive return on its investment.
“Chris has helped the town really get the public works department organized,” Eclectic Mayor Gary Davenport said. “He’s also been an asset to the sewer department in helping with their daily operations.”
George said his planning and willingness to work alongside the public works crew has paid off.
“We are getting a lot more stuff done now that before,” George said. “It’s just all in how you handle it and set it up. That way you know what works and does not work.”
One area he focused on first was the town’s recycling efforts.
“We streamlined the recycling center where we are running it more efficiently,” he said.
An additional area where the town is seeing a positive impact via the public works department is grass cutting.
“Cutting grass in Eclectic in the summer is a major undertaking,” he said. “We have two guys. That’s their full-time position — cutting grass and weed eating. They get done one week and start right back the next week.”
The Eclectic Town Council approved the purchase of a new industrial mower which George said has saved time and helped to keep the town’s greenspace cut.
“Got a new zero-turn lawnmower,” George said. “We’ve always used residential, middle-grade mowing equipment. For the type and amount of mowing we do, it’s just we never had that piece of heavy-duty equipment designed for that. We got it in service and it sped up our lawnmowing process by a couple of hours a week. That’s a huge deal for us.”
George said a challenge for any small-town department is funding.
“We’d all like to have brand new equipment,” he said. “That’s not feasible for a town of our size. We’d all like newer and better equipment, but we’ve got to be realistic too.”
George said it is important for residents to know the public works department continued to work as essential employees through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t work from home,” George said. “None of my guys worked from home. They’ve been there every day. Same way with the water works, public works and sewer side of it too. We’ve had to be there the entire time the coronavirus has been going on.”
He said other projects public works has completed the past few weeks include repairs to town roads, improving how the town approaches basic maintenance and fixing a collapsed culvert located next to Panther Palace with the assistance of the sewer department.
George said the reason he took the job is because he cares about the town.
“I’ve always been passionate about the Town of Eclectic,” he said. “My kids grew up here and went to school here. I’ve always tried to help out anyway I could. I had been volunteering with the town and doing some projects.”
He said that’s when Davenport and the council decided they needed a person to manage public works projects for the town.
“They needed that position and that’s where I came in to play,” George said.
George thinks he will be working for the town for a long time.
“I would like to stay in this position long term,” he said. “As the town grows you will probably see me defer more to the sewer side of it.”
He expects new regulations coming down from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management will cause the town to have to create a position for full-time sewer supervisor.
“In the next few years as these new housing editions are built that’s probably something the town will look at and probably a position I’ll look at too,” he said.