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Inside Public Works
Nancy Fisher | 24th Street

Eric Minicilli, Director, with Karen Jewett, Administrative Assistant II. Photo Nancy Fisher.  Click on image to enlarge.    

Employees of the Public Works Department are a close-knit group and describe themselves as family. Karen Jewett, Administrative Assistant II, has been with the department for 19 years and feels like she grew up there. “Co-workers have married, passed away, babies have been born, and we recently lost two 20-year employees to retirement.” She also loves working with Del Mar’s residents, whom she describes as “kind and grateful people who care about where they live.”

This emphasis on teamwork comes from the top of the department. Del Mar’s Director of Public Works, Eric Minicilli, believes his most important role is hiring the right people. “If you get that wrong,” he says, “it filters down and is bad for cohesion and morale.” Eric also believes strongly in getting input from a variety of sources. “If we need to landscape a space, I’ll call the Garden Club or Parks and Recreation for advice. And I talk almost daily with the City Manager, Finance, Planning, and Community Services. We also, on an operational level, have a good working relationship with the fairgrounds. They help us with some beach cleanup, we help them with some sewage maintenance and, during the power outage, they provided emergency fuel to power our pump station.”

Since the staff at PW is cross-trained to handle each other’s jobs if necessary, any day can bring a surprise. Employees may arrive expecting to install signage or work on meters and find themselves responding to an emergency sewer break. Eric sees this as a good thing. “I’ve worked for cities that might assign an employee to water only, and it can be monotonous.”

With all of this serious business going on, we wondered if they get many laughs – and it turns out they do. A favorite story is about the crew that had just installed a DO NOT STOP ON THE RAILROAD TRACKS sign when a resident stopped on the railroad tracks to ask them what they were doing. Another is about a dead whale that washed up on the beach and was towed into the ocean only to show up at Torrey Pines Beach a couple of days later. A little research revealed that the whale had first appeared on a beach in L.A. and had since washed up and been towed by almost every beach town in between. And then there was the relocation of bats living under the soon-to-be-demolished Torrey Pines Bridge that involved luring them with bat guano.

When asked if there are difficult or demanding residents Eric answered that “you have to remember that most complaints are coming from a good place. We try to spend an appropriate amount of time relative to the problem while being cognizant that we work for the entire community.” “I’m in Del Mar,” he adds, “because I want to be in a place where people care about their city - and I haven’t found people who care more about their entire community than the citizens of Del Mar.”



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