Michael Mucha has resigned as Olympia's Public Works director to accept a job as a sewer district executive director in Wisconsin, his native state.
The bicycle-riding, bow-tied Mucha, 48, spent 11 years in Olympia’s top Public Works job, overseeing projects and programs aimed at making the city more sustainable.
“Mucha enabled the city to put sustainability into action,” Olympia Mayor Doug Mah said, pointing to city initiatives in recent years to conserve water and energy, increase recycling and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from city operations.
“Michael is a visionary,” said Olympia City Manager Steve Hall. “He’s always looking at the big picture.”
Mucha met with the City Council a final time Tuesday night, received a proclamation from council members recognizing his achievements on behalf of the city, then drove east Wednesday with his possessions to Madison, Wis., where he will take over next week as executive director of the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, Olympia communications manager Cathie Butler said.
Rich Hoey, city water resources director, will serve as acting Public Works director while the city conducts a search for Mucha’s replacement. Hall said it may be this summer before the position, which paid Mucha more than $134,000, is filled.
“There’s some good in-house candidates for the job, too,” Hall noted.
The City Council credited Mucha with:
• Reorganizing the Public Works department and its 200 employees in 2005 to better serve the public.
• Helping to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from city operations by about 30 percent between 2005 and 2009.
Mucha didn’t fit the mold of a traditional Public Works director focusing solely on the built environment, noted Barb Scavezze, co-chairwoman of the citizens group Transition Olympia-Climate Action Change.
“He was definitely interested in making sustainability and climate change high priorities,” she said. “He was concerned about sea-level rise, availability of water and other sustainability issues.”
• Leading the city effort to replace the Fourth Avenue Bridge, rendered unsafe by the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, with an award-winning, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly bridge.
“He brought a different perspective and different mix of skills to the job that were rare at the time he was hired,” Mah said. “He was highly regarded and always received very high performance reviews.”
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 firstname.lastname@example.org