Civics Today: What’s up with Keizer’s Public Works Department

Public Works director Bill Lawyer as he sits in his office at Keizer City Hall 

Since the city’s inception, the Public Works department has been working behind the scenes to ensure that the amenities we enjoy and which make us civilized, such as clean water, are available. 

The 27 members of Keizer’s Public Works Department help maintain the city’s roads, parks, waterways and lines, traffic lights as well as numerous other jobs that occur during inclement weather such as repairing water lines that freeze. 

To understand the importance and inner workings of this crucial city department, Keizertimes sat with current Public Works director Bill Lawyer to learn more. 

Having been employed in the department since September 1989, Lawyer is one of the fewlong serving public service workers in Keizer and has seen firsthand the growth his department has undergone. 

Originally starting as a Water Works operator for the city, Lawyer noted the department originally dealt only with tasks such as putting in services, fixing leaks, installing pipes, reading meters and visiting pump stations. 

At the time, the department was still growing alongside the city and during Lawyer’s initial time working for the city, the department grew taking up more responsibilities such as the waterways, waterlines, as well as managing issues on the streets such as repair or managing street signs. 

“When I was young, I was looking for a career. I won ‘t say [I had] a dead end job, but I had advanced as far as I was going to go,” Lawyer said. 

“I was looking and found a city job with benefits. I had no idea that the opportunity was going to be what it turned out to be. I was looking for a career and what I found was a profession.” 

Through different directors passing the torch, the department slowly grew in both personnel and responsibility. 

According to Lawyer, the purpose of the department is to, first and foremost, ensure that Keizerites have consistent access to potable water sources. 

“People take what we do for granted and I am as guilty as anybody of opening my faucet to get a drink of water and take for granted it’s going to be safe and clean, not thinking about what it takes to get it there,” Lawyer said. 

Following this are the city’s infrastructure, sewer lines, water lines, storm drains as well as maintaining the city’s park. 

Before he became the current director in 2012, Lawyer was the Public Works superintendent for more than a decade. 

In that time, Lawyer described how the projects taken on as well as how they are managed by the department has drastically changed as well as his own involvement in those projects. 

One change Lawyer described in his own day to day involves how he views and works on the various projects the department handles. 

“My involvement has changed over time from being out in the field to managing a project,” Lawyer said. 

Work life at the department seems to please the employees as several Public Works employees, such as Brad Beverly, have worked there for decades. 

“I just really enjoy what I do and the people I am with,” Beverly noted. 

Lawyer takes a hand-off approach through holding employees to a high standard of excellence as they complete their jobs, however also providing them with enough leeway to make their own best decisions. 

Lawyer’s rule for this management style is: “I accept they’re going to make mistakes. Just don’t make the same mistake every day, every week, every month. Learn from them and move on.” 

Lawyer noted that as he transitioned to the director position, understanding the day to day work flow is important as is understanding the long term and imparting foresight into his decisions. 

“I’m looking at things that are two to five years down the road because it takes time to design projects, planning down the road if you will,” Lawyer stated. 

For other employees, it is difficult to describe a day to day work schedule as the jobs Public Works responds to may be different each day. 

Each day starts with having a team meeting and getting a list of the different duties department workers have to go and respond to. 

Public Works employee Brad Beverly, who has worked for the department for more than a decade, as he washes his vehicle
Public Works employees Brian Brogoitti (left) and Chris Shaw (right) on a Friday reset day at the Public Works shop
Public Works employee Gabriel Garay as he moves a vehicle out of the shop bay
The Keizer Public Works department located behind the Keizer Fire District off of Chemawa Road

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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