Patrick Dean joined the city as Public Works Director in November. Dean previously worked as Facilities Director at Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College, and water systems operator for Weber County. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

You might say Patrick Dean is a sewer enthusiast. Three months into his job as Moab’s Public Works Director, the top projects on his list are all sewer system improvements.

In his office, surrounded by maps and plans, Dean described “a nice gravity sewer line” he’d like to build along the western side of U.S. Highway 191 on the north end of town, explaining how it would make life simpler for the property owners there.

“They’re into the business of being hotel operators, not sewer operators,” Dean said. “I’m going to try to get them out of that job.”

That attitude sums up Dean’s approach to the job.

“That’s our whole goal – to be a better steward for the taxpayers,” he said.

Sewer upgrades aren’t the only reason he left his position as Facilities Director at Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College – though they were part of the decision.

“I really missed the public sector,” Dean said. “This is really in the trenches, where things are really happening.”

By the time the city hired Dean, in mid-November of last year, the Moab City Public Works Department – which oversees roadways, city-owned buildings, parks, and the water and sewer systems – had been without a director for nearly 10 months. Former director Jeff Foster resigned in late February 2016.

Danielle Guerrero, deputy recorder and human resources director for the city, said that former Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson intended to split the public works director position into two positions after Foster’s departure. One position would have been responsible for the city’s water and sewer systems and the other for parks, buildings and streets.

The time it took to write two new job descriptions and have both approved by the city council extended the hiring process, Guerrero said. After the city terminated Davidson’s contract last September, the splitting of the position was reversed.

In both initial phone interviews and the later in-person interviews held in Moab, Dean stood out, Guerrero said.

“He was very personable; he was very knowledgeable; he had a great background in what we were looking for,” she said. “His personality fit in great with the employees we currently have over at public works.”

Dean, now 58, grew up in Ogden. After stints at Mount Angel Seminary College and the University of Utah, neither producing a degree, he joined the Air Force. His four years of active duty began in Okinawa and ended in Oklahoma. In the military he worked as a technical illustrator and a draftsman – skills that helped him land a job with an architectural engineering company in Ogden when he returned home.

After working for two private firms, Dean joined Weber County’s engineering department. He was the department’s lead draftsman and water systems operator for 12 years. The best part of that job, he recalled, was seeing smaller municipalities flourish through productive cooperation with developers. It was a sense of accomplishment that he came to miss during his 12 years at Ogden-Weber.

“I’ve always gone into places and tried to leave them better than when I arrived,” Dean said.

Dean credits Leigh Anne Reinhart, the department’s administrative assistant, with keeping the public works department on track while the city searched for a new director.

“Leigh Anne here, she’s the one that’s the glue that kept it all together,” he said. “She’s been an invaluable asset to me in my learning curve here.”

“Are there things that got missed and sidelined? Yeah,” Dean said. “It’s not things that can’t be overcome.”

For the short term, he’s eager to improve the city’s sewer system. The line by Highway 191 would be one big improvement; an expansion of the city’s south trunk line around 200 South and 100 West would be another. The latter would enable properties along Kane Creek Boulevard to stop using septic tanks, which Dean believes would be beneficial for local waterways.

“Our health department does a lot of water testing,” Dean said. “They’re testing a little bit higher levels of E. coli in some of the creeks here when it’s a wetter time of the year.”

Dean is also focused on the construction of the city’s new sewage treatment facility. Beyond sewers, he’s planning some upgrades for the city’s streets. 400 East will receive new road striping in April, he said, and Kane Creek Boulevard will be chip-sealed and restriped.

Longer-term, he’d like to move the Public Works department into a new, energy-efficient building.

“My goal would be to put in here a net-zero building” – one that uses no more energy than it generates – “that will facilitate the city for the next 50 years,” Dean said. “We want to keep Moab above the curve for the state in being resourceful with our utilities.”

But for the moment, he acknowledged, he’s been “spending a lot of time trying to get everything caught up here that’s on my desk.”

When he’s not at his desk, Dean enjoys golfing and hiking. Living in Moab for the first time, he’s looking forward to dusting off his mountain bikes. He and his wife are empty-nesters now – the youngest of their eight children is 25 – but he wants to volunteer for local youth sports leagues, especially football and baseball.

“Moab is a great melting pot community,” Dean said. “I love the fact that the people are so passionate.”

Interim City Manager David Everitt said he was pleased with the result of the hiring process, calling Dean “a great pick.”

“I think he’s been really solid,” Everitt said. “He’s jumped right in and started getting involved … He gets how important it is to support your employees in public works.”

Guerrero, too, said that Dean has quickly become an effective advocate for his department’s employees.

“They know they have somebody they can go to and is willing to fight for them,” she said.

Moab Real Estate Broker Dave Bierschied was impressed by his first interactions with Dean, when he wanted the city to move one of the signs leading people to the Slickrock Trail.

“He was very friendly and right on it,” Bierschied said. “He acted like he needed to do it for the public … I hope to work with him in the future.”

Department lacked director for over nine months last year

We want to keep Moab above the curve for the state in being resourceful with our utilities.