Witt hired as director of public works
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:10 PM
"He already knows the lay of the land.That's because Randy Witt, hired this week as the city's new director of public works, has been driving Bainbridge roads for eight years.It's a little different opportunity, (and) a promotion, said Witt, who will join the city staff Oct. 1 after an eight-year stint as engineer for the city of Bremerton. It's a little more hands-on on the operations side, and some more challenges. I'm excited.Witt's selection was announced by Mayor Dwight Sutton at Wednesday's city council meeting, with a starting salary of $76,000. He replaces longtime works director Bill Bryan, who was fired last fall. Witt, 42, is a native of Corvallis, Ore., and graduated from Oregon State University in 1983 with degrees in civil engineering and forestry engineering. He spent three years with the California Department of Transportation and eight years as senior engineer for the city of Sacramento, Calif., before moving back to the Northwest to work in Bremerton.The Koura Road-area resident has lived on the island since 1992, with his wife and two children, ages 9 and 6.In an interview Thursday, Witt demonstrated an engineer's understanding of island road conditions, commenting on the merits of the current chip-sealing program intended to defer major repaving and reconstruction and long-range funding challenges.In essence, you have a county road system on a city budget, Witt said. You'll start seeing the deterioration of roads. We'll have to start talking about that, and how we're going to address it. Big public works projects on the horizon include the reconstruction of Winslow Way through the downtown business district, slated for 2002. Last year's Lower Madison/Brien/Bjune roadwork was seen as the dress rehearsal for that project, and city officials hope to use public involvement to minimize the hardship on downtown businesses and shoppers. Witt agreed.It can be a very fun and exciting process,or it can be a dreadful process, he said. I think it's incumbent on us to make it more toward the fun and exciting.Witt said he has always admired the city's ability to bring in grant funding for projects, saying it reflects the activism of the community.The city advertised the public works director position earlier this summer, and about 30 applications were received, city Administrator Lynn Nordby said.Applicants were asked to respond to a half-dozen essay questions, to gauge their professional knowledge and to get a sense of their philosophy in dealing with the challenges of public service.Hiring criteria included the ability to manage co-workers and work with the public; recognition of community values and the ability to mesh those with engineering standards; ability to prepare long-range plans; and innovation with minimal resources.Based on applicants' responses and overall credentials, the field was winnowed down in July to eight interviewees, from which Witt emerged as the unanimous selection.The hiring committee included Nordby and Sutton; council chair Merrill Robison and city human resources director Kathleen Grauman; and Bill Duffy, public works director for the city of Poulsbo.Sutton said Friday that Witt is unusually gifted at involving the public in works projects, and will make a good department head within city hall.He has an enormously good reputation as a manager of people, Sutton said. He's what we'd call a classical mentor of folks.I feel sorry for Bremerton (in losing Witt), Sutton said.Council chair Merrill Robison also praised Witt's selection, saying the field of finalists were all extremely well qualified for the position. "