After more than 26 years of service to the city, public works director Jeff Chambers is putting away his hardhat and safety vest for good. Chambers’ career with the city was celebrated during a reception upon his retirement Friday.
Chambers joined the city as an engineering technician in 1993 after serving for 11 years in the U.S. Air Force. Three years later, he was promoted and named the director of public works. In this role, Chambers’ responsibilities have included overseeing road maintenance and construction, drainage, and new public infrastructure construction.
Assistant city manager Tommy Ludwig praised Chambers for his dedication to the job and making sure the work was done right.
“I told Jeff this morning that I am really going to miss him,” Ludwig said. “He has done a tremendous amount of work for the city and has made a lasting impression. I told him that the things he put in place are going to last much longer than the concrete and asphalt.
“We were lucky to have had you,” he told Chambers and then, telling the crowd on hand, “I am going to miss him.”
Assistant city manager Albert Lawrence described Chambers as a “true public servant going beyond what was asked for him to do.”
“Anybody that has been in a city for this long is going to have a major impact,” Lawrence said. “I think that is one of the reasons why we enjoy our job so much is because we can see those impacts. You can see the productivity of your work.
“I know that Jeff has seen a lot of change over time and that he is a key component,” Lawrence said. “He is why Waxahachie has been so successful. You see all of the streets and the right of ways and everything that has happened in Waxahachie. He is the key to all of that happening. I congratulate Jeff for the time that he has put in here and I hope that he knows he has made a significant positive impact on Waxahachie.”
City manager Michael Scott said he valued Chambers for his honesty and not sugar-coating a situation. One of those moments Scott recalled was in the early stages of the Baylor Scott & White replacement hospital project.
“They bought a piece of land across I-35E behind the car dealerships for their relocation,” Scott said. “Jeff looked the land guy from Baylor corporate in the eye during a meeting and told him, ‘You bought the wrong piece of land.’ You could have heard a pin drop. We thought we were going to lose Baylor.
“The land guy looked at it and said, ‘You know, you’re right,’ and he appreciated his honesty. They then bought the land where the glass factory was and tore it down and built on that property because Jeff had the guts. That is the same type of honesty that we have gotten from Jeff. Sometimes I don’t like to hear what he has to say but it is what I need to hear. I have appreciated that.”
Scott said he’s proud to call Chambers a friend and will miss seeing him around City Hall.
Chambers joked with guests at the reception that the reason he was retiring after 26 years is that the life expectancy of most public works projects is about 30 years.
Kidding aside, Chambers said he’s proud of the work he’s done.
“I have been through a lot of years and through a lot of cycles (to where) if we could fix a pothole that was a banner year,” he said. “The last few years we have gotten to build a tremendous amount of things – not just build them but really good things.
“The streets we built are not cookie cutter,” he said. “Every inch of them is custom. Nothing gets built without that council’s support and I think that we have used that money wisely. I believe that is going to continue.”
While the work has been fulfilling, Chambers said he’s even prouder of the people he has worked with and whom he calls family.
“As I look back, the things that count is not the mortar, it’s not the rock or the steel, none of that matters because it is going to be dust way too soon,” he said. “Watch the people, support those people, love those people, because they will disappear on you. Death comes for all of us. “I look back on what I’ve been able to work on and whom I’ve been able to work with and I have been able to work with the best,” he said. “Trust your people. Trust them. Let them make decisions. They know what they are doing. Give them what they need to do and they will water your eyes every time. I love these people.”
Chambers described technology a “great tool” that helps on the job site and in the office but for people not to get enamored with it because it turns obsolete and has to be updated. Instead, he said to invest in the people around you – and the returns will be far greater.