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Gold Hill Public Works Director Michael Edwards holds a sample of treated water at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Since he started in May, Edwards has done everything from hauling sludge to weed-eating grass. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore

NO JOB TOO SMALL

GOLD HILL — Since taking the job as the city's public works director in May, Michael Edwards has hauled sludge and fixed broken water lines while juggling a massive to-do list with limited funding and a three-person crew.

The 48-year-old former Bend inspector replaced former Public Works Director Bob Butler, who spent less than a year with the city.

Edwards said his focus is "on the city's future and doing the best job I can."

Edwards has been learning the ins and outs of keeping a city of 1,100 people running efficiently, and the job has found him doing everything from wielding a weed-eater in city parks to working in ditches during water emergencies.

"I am one of those guys who believes you lead by example, so I want the crew to know that I'll never ask them to do anything that I won't jump in the ditch, literally, and do myself," Edwards said.

Edwards said he is working to manage a small crew to ensure his department runs "proactively instead of reactively."

Edwards worked in Bend for two decades, starting in 1990 as a grave digger for the city cemetery. He progressed to asphalt patching and street overlay, eventually becoming a street division inspector.

During his final two-and-a-half years, he worked for Bend's water and wastewater division, his tasks ranging from project management to inspection.

His move from a city of 77,000 to a town of barely more than 1,000 stemmed from his search for new opportunity.

"It was time for a change," he said. "There weren't many opportunities to grow beyond what I already had done in Bend."

Recruited a year after Butler left Gold Hill amid concerns about lack of certification and issues with public works performance, Edwards said he is eager to prove himself to residents and the City Council.

During his first two months, he helped repair three large water main breaks, assessed overdue asphalt repairs and spent two full days hauling wastewater byproduct.

Edwards hopes to seek grant money to install drying beds at the plant just outside the city to free up crews to take on other tasks.

Paul Tyerman, lead operator for the city's two plants and an eight-year employee, said the city is lucky to have Edwards.

"We're very fortunate to have him. He's got a lot of stuff this town needs as far as knowledge and standards of operation," Tyerman said.

"He used to be an inspector, so he has a lot of knowledge that will be useful to us and he's a real energetic, real nice guy who gets out there and is as eager to learn what we do here as we are to learn what he can offer us."

City Councilwoman Christine Alford said Edwards has so far proven to be "a good match" for the town.

"He said he wanted this to be his last job, and that's fine with us as long as we can show the community that we're doing the absolute best we can do for them," Alford said, adding that the city wanted a director who would communicate with the council and have complete control of the city's two plants.

Edwards said he already feels at home in Gold Hill.

"Every town is going to have issues, no matter how big a city you're in, but this is a really cool little town," he said.

"And the one thing I've noticed is that everyone I've met really genuinely loves this community. I think that's what I find most appealing."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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