Leslie Bland, director of public works for the city of Fenton, Mich., installed a capital improvement plan to upgrade his town's roads. Photo:APWA Reporter

Leslie Bland got into the public works field at the ground level—literally. An experienced backhoe and grader operator, he answered an ad for a skilled laborer position with Fenton, Mich., in 1969 and was hired. He rose through the ranks and has served as director of public works since 1979.

During his tenure, Bland has implemented improvements to the city and his department. “My proudest accomplishments would be the building of our new Department of Public Works garage and our new water treatment facility, which opened within the last two years,” said Bland. “Both these buildings were badly needed and now are state-of-the-art.”

Another contribution is the city's capital improvement program (CIP), which Bland put forth during his early days as director. The plan annually allocates a minimum of $200,000 to construct and maintain Fenton's 40 miles of local streets. The CIP established the first year of the plan's projects for implementation in the next fiscal year and laid out four more years of proposed projects for the council to review. The program helped increased his department's efficiency, improved quality of life, and helped keep the peace in the city.

Bland shows a great deal of pride in the municipality he has served for more than three decades. “We have lots of areas around us with many lakes and attractions for our residents and we are no more than half an hour from several large cities,” he said. “Our school system is very good. We have approximately 170 acres of park area—one having a beach with lifeguards—and our housing is second to none at a very-affordable cost. Most people say we are a small town with big-city attractions.”

And while Fenton might not be a big metropolis like nearby Detroit, that doesn't mean Bland's job doesn't present big challenges. “Each day brings in new problems to deal with, along with construction, maintenance, and overseeing all aspects of the water system, sewer system, roads, and parks. Days go by very quickly and problems seem to never end. I like a challenge and this type of work fits me just fine.”