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Public works director retires

The point man on many of Ashland’s biggest and sometimes most controversial projects is ditching his tie and hitting the open road — without having to worry about how soon it will need repaving. Ashland's soon-to-be-former Public Works Director Mike Faught has announced his official retirement is coming up March 31, although he will stay on under contract through Oct. 31, giving the city time to identify and transition to its next public works director.

“I love this town," Faught said. "It’s such a cool town. I’ve been honored to serve. I’ve had a great career; I couldn’t be happier.”

One of the things making him smile is his post-retirement plan of cycling across the United States and Europe. He’s sold his house and bought a fifth wheel to make his new mobile life complete. “We’re doing 60 miles on Sundays," he said, "and pretty soon we’ll be ready for our hundred miler from Seattle to Portland.”

While Faught says he loves his work, he feels it’s time for a new chapter. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years," he said. "I’m happy I got to be here and serve at a director level but it’s time to do something else.”

Faught served in several other communities, beginning with his first job on a road crew in Springfield while he went to college. He worked in mid-level management until becoming department director in Ontario and then Stayton, where he served for seven years before becoming Ashland public works director in June 2008.

As director, Faught has found himself at the center of more than one controversy involving road projects and development. “The 'road diet' was the most challenging," he said. "The fact that you can travel as fast with three lanes as you can with four was a difficult thing to understand. But I think it worked out for the community.”

Faught says he’s had times where things came together even better than he imagined. “We completed the TAP (Talent-Ashland-Phoenix) line," he said, even though, "we didn’t have the money or design but we did it in five months.” The shared emergency water line recently earned the city an Environmental Protection Agency award for its ability to provide safe drinking water while being sustainable and environmentally sound.

Asked if he ever felt citizens were too tough with the level of comment around public works projects, which often attract large crowds to public hearings, Faught said he appreciated it. “Here people actually care, they engage in the conversation," he said. "I like how the community engages with the staff, there’s support."

A student of organizational psychology, Faught enjoys the result of collaboration. “It comes together with changes as it goes and it becomes better," he said. "It’s a thrill.”

The process of finding a new director begins on April 17 when the council discusses the process they want to use. For other non-elected positions, the council has routinely taken out ads with posted qualifications, narrowed down applicants and interviewed finalists before choosing the successor.

Faught follows Chief Financial Officer Lee Tuneberg and elected Recorder Barbara Christensen into retirement. City Administrator Dave Kanner was released from his contract early by the city in December. Fire Chief John Karns has been the acting city administrator since his departure, with David Shepherd serving as interim fire chief.

But other retirements and changes taking place within the city aren’t involved in Faught’s decision to leave, he said. “It’s just timing," said Faught. "I’m 62.”

He says it’s unlikely there will be any real issues with him leaving. “I have a great staff, they deliver a product, an amazing team," he said. "I’m leaving the city in good hands.”

— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.

Mike Faught, who started his career driving street sweepers, is now retiring after nine years as Ashland's public works director. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]