A top-level Laurens County position is opening
Laurens County is in the market for a new Director of Public Works.
Rob Russian, the current Laurens County Public Works director, has accepted a position with Greenwood County as the County Engineer. His last day with Laurens County will be July 18th. A job openings ad will be in The Chronicle July 11.
This is information about Russian from The Chronicle’s 2014 HORIZON when he managed the SC Department of Transportation Laurens County office:
By Vic MacDonald
One thousand fifty.
Robert Russian needs to know every single one - every one of those 1,050 miles of public roads in Laurens County. It’s a far-flung responsibility, to manage the shop that maintains every single one of those miles. That’s road repair, shoulder maintenance, vegetation cut-backs, bridges and picking up litter.
Russian manages the roadways of Laurens County with a staff of 53 - SC DOT is posting seven more jobs for Laurens County to bring the maintenance workforce back up to 60. Twenty years ago, it was more than 100 employees. Doing the same - even more - with less is the “new normal” for South Carolina public agencies.
The entry level positions start at $10 an hour, and employees are required to obtain their CDL license within six months. The salary scale escalates for skilled employees - motorgrader and backhoe operators, and mechanics. Russian said some employees make 30 to 40 years in roads maintenance.
As with many outdoor jobs, there are risks in roads maintenance. Take the snow and ice that blanketed Laurens County Jan. 29-30; it did not hit here as hard as in Columbia, and Atlanta was so gridlocked motorists abandoned their cars on the freeway and walked home.
“When people are being told ‘don’t go out,’ 60 of us are out there,” Russian said. “These guys do not get enough credit for that. It is white-knuckle driving for 12 straight hours.”
Every year counties throughout the state go through a snow plan. Workers know in advance what 12-hour shift they will be on; keeping the roads as safe as possible is a 24-hour task when the weather turns rough.
Equipment has to be up to par, and supplies have to be replenished. “It’s a constant battle,” Russian said.
A two-and-half year veteran of the Laurens County maintenance shop, Russian also worked for DOT in Saluda and Greenwood. He and family - wife and two children - live in the Ninety Six area. Russian is a 1999 Virginia Tech graduate with a mining engineering degree, and he worked for a time in the mining industry - a very “profits-driven industry,” he says. He has 13 years experience with roads maintenance in South Carolina.
Russian wants to make Laurens County maintenance more accessible and responsive to the public. The office takes work requests from county residents, advises house builders and others who work on the public right of way, and the state has information available at scdot.org.
The website details “doing business with SC DOT, how we should be involved,” Russian said.
Officially his title is Resident Maintenance Engineer, District 2 Laurens Maintenance. Russian wants to continue building relationships with governments throughout Laurens County, being responsive to their needs and the needs of their citizens.
“Mike Reddeck (retiring Clinton public works director) does a really good job. We have a good relationship with Dale Satterfield (Reddeck’s replacement) at Laurens CPW. We are looking forward to working with him in Clinton,” Russian said. “The biggest problem for Clinton is drainage areas, especially Lydia Mill, on private property.”
Russian also works closely with the Laurens County Transportation Committee; Niles Clark is the chairman. Russian said the county’s CTC is as good as they come in South Carolina. “They have been really good to me, really good to work with,” he said.
The CTC gets about $1 million a year in state-refunded gas tax money to handle county-maintained roads. The money is never enough to meet all the needs, which committee members see first-hand during a ride-through of roads all over Laurens County.
“They do a very thorough evaluation,” Russian said. “They know what needs to be done out there, and they’re not afraid to try new things. The CTC is as big an asset as we can have (in Laurens County).
“They do alot with a million dollars - that sounds like a lot, it’s not in the roads business. They put a lot of time and effort where it’s needed most. They truly have what’s best for the traveling public in mind. They are conscientious about their money. They handle all their money so the maximum amount hits the road.”
Russian says he will continue the Laurens maintenance shop’s involvement with litter clean-up efforts. SC DOT honored the Laurens County Chamber’s beautification effort with the state’s top award in 2012, and the Beautification Committee sponsors quarterly clean ups. Maintenance shop personnel pitch in with a friendly in-house competition to see which division can pick up the most litter.
The maintenance shop has a county inmates crew that can assist in litter pickup. Russian said the crew lately has been more involved with vegetation control, since the shop’s workforce has declined and priorities shifted. He said when the seven new employees are hired and trained, and the workforce is back to 60 the priorities can be re-examined.
“This county is very fortunate with the involvement of the Chamber,” Russian said. “All our employees participate in a pick-up day, we have competition among groups. It coincides with a Chamber (beautification) day.”
The next Chamber-sponsored litter pick-up day for Laurens County will be March 8.
Russian might have his guys, and encourage volunteer groups, to bring rakes. One of his pet-peeves - cigarette butts discarded at traffic lights. US 76 bypass/business intersection (near Walmart) in Laurens “I bet there’s 500 cigarette butts out there,” he said.
Drivers don’t think throwing a cigarette out the window while waiting at a red light is littering, “but it is,” Russian said. Regardless of popular opinion, cigarette butts and filters do not bio-degrade that quickly - as more pile up, the area becomes more and more unsightly.
“It is disheartening to see places where the inmates clean up, and then it’s right back the way it was,” Russian said.
He says “habitual litterers” are a major problem - “every day in every location, and they get away with it.”
It surely won’t matter to thoughtless litter-bugs, but remember - rain, sleet or snow, somebody is out there working on the safety and appearance of the one thousand fifty in Laurens County.