James Neal
James Neal

Public Works Director
Charleston. S.C.
Employees: 203
Population Served: 345,000
Budget: $12 million

No one knows better than James Neal that negotiating National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits is an iterative process. That’s especially true for a 1,358-square-mile service area, much of it unincorporated, with only 373,000 people and four co-permittees.

Yet in less than a decade, under his direction, Charleston County developed one of South Carolina’s most successful management plans.

Don’t try to be a politician just because you work for one.

In 2007, the county adopted an ordinance and established a stormwater utility that began collecting fees. In 2007, permitting standards and a procedures manual were issued. In 2009 Neal signed off on the county’s first small municipal separate storm sewer system (SMS4) general permit focusing on collecting and organizing data, developing a plan of attack for EPA’s six required minimum control measures, and beginning implementation. The county’s now two years into its second permit.

To establish an excellent working relationship with elected officials, the Pennsylvania State University graduate suggests just being you.

“Don’t try to be a politician just because that's who you work for,” he says. “Sometimes people lose sight of that.”