Crescent City Council members past and present, colleagues and community members bid farewell to Public Works Director Jim Barnts this week. He is retiring after working for Crescent City for nine years.
“I probably attended over 200 Council meetings,” Barnts said Monday night. “I can’t believe this is the last one as public works director.”
City staff and Council members sent Barnts off with a plaque and a slide-show. Utilities Director Eric Wier, who narrated the presentation, dipped so far into Barnts’ past that he unearthed baby pictures from Barnts’ hometown of Lebanon, Ore., where he was once voted cutest baby. Barnts’ parents moved the family to Crescent City in 1950 and opened a tire shop.
The slide show also highlighted Barnts’ career as an employee with the cities of Crescent City and Fort Bragg and as a design engineer and partner for the Sacramento-based Spink Corporation. to Wier, who started working for Crescent City the same year as Barnts, said one of the biggest projects Barnts worked on when he was at the Spink Corporation was the Douglas I-80 interchange project near Sacramento.
In 2003, Barnts came to Crescent City at a time when the city was still under a cease and desist order from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Wier said. The city’s streets needed to be upgraded, he said, and so did the Fred Endert Municipal Pool.
“As I was going through things it dawned on me that we’ve accomplished quite a lot as a department and Jim has a lot to be proud of,” Wier said as he gave a breakdown of the major public works projects that have been completed during Barnts’ tenure, including the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant. “Even though the treatment plant will be a living project, this one has set us up for the future. We’ve completed the basics, we’ve completed the fundamentals, we’re at a point we can build off of now.”
Barnts said he took the job in Crescent City as a way to help his community. He said he wanted to be with his parents and his siblings, and he wanted to do some good in the community.
“The way I looked at it I was coming home,” Barnts said. “When your folks are in an area for a real long time and have an impact in that area, you can feel that impact growing up. It really never leaves you. You have a passion to do something for that community.”
In addition to finishing numerous projects, including the wastewater treatment plant, Barnts said what he remembers the most is the camaraderie among the public works staff. He also acknowledged the work of the city manager and the City Council.
“What I appreciated was the trust that you put in us, and without that all those projects Eric talked about wouldn’t have gotten done,” Barnts said. “I feel like the nine years we’ve spent here has been profitable.”
Each member of the City Council applauded Barnts’ expertise. Mayor Rich Enea noted that Barnts, who came from the private sector, spent a lot of time on the phone finding competitive bidders for the city’s public works projects.
“I don’t know how much money he has saved the city of Crescent City by getting us competitive bids from out of the area,” Enea said. “That’s something a lot of people don’t know, but I’ve followed that all the way. It’s because of personal private contracts that they came up here.”