PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles has a new public works and utilities director.
Thomas Hunter, 31, former utility manager for the city of Port Orchard, has been hired to oversee the largest department at Port Angeles City Hall.
His first day on the job was Monday.
“I’m just really excited to get to be a part of a leadership team at the city who is really looking to focus on a sustainable future and to improve people’s lives through utilities,” Hunter said in a Wednesday interview.
“You improve people’s lives by ensuring that they’ve got clean, safe drinking water at an affordable rate. You improve people’s lives by protecting the environment and not allowing for environmental degradation due to poor utility management.”
Hunter, a Silverdale native, brings more than 14 years of experience to the city.
The Western Washington University graduate worked at the Silverdale Water District and Kitsap Public Utility District prior to joining the city of Port Orchard.
“His knowledge and expertise in the water, sewer, streets, and stormwater divisions, along with parks and facilities, makes him a valuable asset to the city of Port Angeles,” Port Angeles City Manager Nathan West said in a prepared statement.
“I am extremely excited to have Thomas lead the public works division and join the leadership team at Port Angeles.”
Hunter replaces former Port Angeles Public Works and Utilities Director James Burke.
He will oversee the equivalent of about 96 full time employees.
The Port Angeles Public Works and Utilities Department includes engineering services, power systems and an operations division composed of streets and stormwater, wastewater, water, light operations, equipment services and solid waste utilities, according to the city budget and website.
“I could not be more excited to be here,” Hunter said at the Port Angeles City Council meeting Tuesday.
“I’m very exited for my family to get up here and join me. .. It feels like a great fit.”
In a later interview, Hunter said Port Angeles is similar to Port Orchard, where he worked for the past 4 1/2 years.
“There’s both port communities,” he said.
“Both have the same kind of environmental implications with all these creeks coming down, so very similar stormwater challenges, very similar habitat challenges and very similar in their critical areas.”
Port Angeles has more than 38 miles of arterial roadways, 86 miles of residential streets, 60 miles of sidewalk, 35 miles of alleys, six bridges, 26 traffic signals and 8,000 street signs, according to city documents.
The city’s storm system has more than 82 miles of drain pipe, 28 miles of culvert, 2,400 catch basins, 855 manholes, a pump station, 14 stormwater structures and new rain gardens.
“We’ve got a lot of lane miles to take care of, a lot of sewer and water,” Hunter said.
Hunter said his first objective will be to get to know the staff and the inner workings of the department.
“You really have to be passionate about protecting resources and utilities to do this job everyday,” Hunter said.
“I believe it’s a huge responsibility and it should be taken seriously.”
Hunter said there are numerous ways to build and maintain utilities in a sustainable and fiscally-responsibly manner.
“Picking the right method for the individual community that you’re in is important,” he added.
Hunter and his wife, Alicia, have vacationed in the Port Angeles area for more than a decade, hiking around Lake Crescent and the Elwha Valley.
“We just really enjoy the area,” Hunter said.
“It was a pretty natural fit.”
The couple is now looking for a home in Port Angeles.
“We’ve got four boys, so we’re going to need something with a little bit of room,” Hunter said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].