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Sawyer out as city's public works boss

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM

After just 10 months on the job, Norwalk Public Works Director James Sawyer left his job as the city's engineer Monday.

Sawyer did not return a phone call from the Reflector this morning.

"I'm sorry the position did not work out for Jim," Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch said. "It certainly is a big job with many administrative and technical duties. I wish Jim the very best of luck."

Sawyer became Norwalk's first public works director last January. The position of director was created in 2006 after the city learned Ralph Seward, who served as public works coordinator for many years, would retire this year.

Sawyer, 53, and a graduate of Purdue University, has spent 16 of his 27 years as an engineer in the public sector. He came to Norwalk from a private consulting job in Chippewa Lake in Medina County.

Sawyer was hired in January so he could shadow Seward before his April retirement and get up to speed on city projects and departments. Sawyer's salary was about $70,000 and Seward's salary for his last year was about $53,000.

Lesch said Seward's responsibility was the city's capital improvement projects. Sawyer's responsibilities included those projects, but also all other public works departments water treatment and distribution, wastewater treatment and collection, streets, street lighting and signals and zoning.

"We also changed the position to include a civil engineering degree," Lesch said. The director's position also required applicants to have a valid engineer's license, 10 years experience as an engineer and five years of management experience.

Lesch said when the new position was created that the higher salary was tough to swallow, but the city expected to save money by putting an experienced engineer in charge of the city's public works.

She said plans could be reviewed internally instead of being sent out to an engineer. "There should be significant savings," Lesch said.

The city spent about $47,000 in 2005 on engineering contracts. Seward said last year when the position was created that about two-thirds of that could be saved if the city had a licensed engineer.

Lesch said she hopes the city can hire another engineer as public works director by the first of next year. "I anticipate it will take us a couple of months," she said, because the city has to advertise in professional publications.

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