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Las Vegas public works director Richard Goecke has seen exponential growth in his 20-year tenure. Photo:APWA Reporter

Las Vegas is a city that never rests—and neither does Dick Goecke, the city's public works director for two decades. He oversees a workforce of 400 employees and commands an annual operating budget of more than $100 million. The challenge of piloting the public works department of such an active city is made even tougher by the fact that Las Vegas continually is transforming itself—new casinos, resorts, attractions, and residential developments pop up every day.

“The Las Vegas landscape constantly changes,” said Goecke. “When I came here in 1985, the city's population was 197,148. Today, Las Vegas proper has upwards of 559,824 residents, a 283% increase. For public works, this means focusing on funding, building, and maintaining the transportation infrastructure, wastewater management, flood control measures, fire stations, parks—all those things a community depends on. It has been exciting and rewarding to me, to be part of these efforts to develop the infrastructure to accommodate this unprecedented growth.”

Goecke has met the challenges facing his dynamic city with a variety of innovative solutions. For example, because the municipality is sited in the middle of the desert, water is a primary concern. He directed the development of a new water reclamation facility, and he led the charge to form a regional coalition of area agencies to address long-term wastewater issues.

“Accommodating growth as it relates to water and wastewater treatment is a top priority and, in light of southern Nevada's ongoing drought and water restrictions, water-related issues take on even more importance,” he said. “Since 1989, more than $200 million has been spent to expand our main treatment facility. Efforts have also focused on moving away from the practice of using drinking water for irrigation. In 1999, we put southern Nevada's first satellite water reuse facility into operation and a year later, a second, larger, reuse facility came online to provide reuse water to nearby golf courses.”

Goecke will soon have more time to enjoy those Vegas golf courses—he plans to retire later this year, enjoying a much-deserved break.