Members of the public got their first look at the three finalists for Ashland public works director on Monday evening.

Happy Valley city engineer Bob Galati, Stayton public works director Michael Faught and Roger Mustain, a self-employed project management consultant from Washington, introduced themselves to residents during a reception in the Ashland Civic Center.

"This is a really special honor for me because I grew up in Ashland," said Galati, who graduated from Ashland High School in 1976 and went to Southern Oregon University when it was Southern Oregon College.

He went on to earn a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Portland State University.

Galati said he has worked for 25 years in the field of engineering, with 20 of those years in the private sector. He has worked as an engineer for several companies in Portland and Lake Oswego, and was also an engineering technician for the city of Albany and private companies.

In Happy Valley, where he now works, Galati said the population has almost doubled in five years to 10,000 people.

As in Ashland, people there have mixed feelings about growth.

Although Galati has extensive experience in the private sector, including with the development of subdivisions, he said it is up to the Ashland City Council and residents to guide decisions on growth.

Galati said a big challenge for the city of Ashland will be to fund maintenance of its public works facilities, including streets, while communicating with the public about maintenance needs.

"That's something that will take money and time to solve," Galati said.

Michael Faught

Faught has worked his way up in the public works field after getting his start as an equipment operator in 1977. He has an associate's degree from Lane Community College in Eugene.

He became a street maintenance supervisor, then public works superintendent and later Ontario's public works director before taking his current job as public works director for Stayton, population 6,816, in 2001.

He said public works departments are impacted by regulations governing water and sewage treatment.

Ashland's public works director needs to pass on information about those regulations to the City Council and residents.

Ashland also has unfunded street maintenance needs.

Faught said dealing with that, as well as traffic congestion and alternative modes of transportation, is important. He said the city should pursue funding opportunities, such as those that help pay for transit services.

Allowing the streets to fall into such a state of disrepair that they have to be entirely reconstructed would be expensive. He said the public works department should team with the city's utilities so that street repairs are done when the roads are being ripped up anyway and then replaced to make way for utility infrastructure.

"You can use some of that utility money to help pay for streets," he said.

The city's system development charges also need to be examined, Faught said.

Those charges are paid by developers to offset the strain growth places on city infrastructure.

"There needs to be a conversation about SDCs if growth is going to pay its own way," he said.

Faught said he was impressed by the action city officials took in the wake of Southern Oregon University student Gladys Jimenez's death. She was struck by a car while in a Siskiyou Boulevard crosswalk on Feb. 13 and later died of her injuries.

He said installing rumble strips and petitioning the state to have the speed limit lowered on the boulevard were good first steps. The most important step may prove to be the city's formation of a committee to examine safety issues, he said.

"You need to make sure folks on that campus can cross that major highway safely," Faught said.

He said the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water pipeline that will someday connect Ashland to Medford for supplemental water is "a great idea and it needs to continue."

Roger Mustain

Mustain is now self-employed as a project management consultant, but he has years of experience in the private sector, working as the city engineer for the city of Bainbridge Island in Washington state and serving around the world as a U.S. Navy officer in charge of facilities, public works and construction.

He has a master's degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University.

Mustain said there are similarities between Bainbridge Island and Ashland. He and his wife come every year to vacation in Ashland.

"Bainbridge Island shares many of the positives Ashland has, but it also shares many of the challenges," he said.

Mustain said both cities have populations of about 20,000 people and have well-educated, affluent and active residents. Bainbridge Island has the highest real estate prices in its county.

Mustain said he previously worked on an affordable housing project for sailors.

He said he enjoys working with people and forging a consensus. Although engineers have reputations for not communicating well, Mustain said he feels comfortable talking with people and can explain public works without lapsing into technical jargon.

"I think I can deal with people in a respectful, non-confrontational way," he said.

Rogue Valley Community Television will broadcast Monday's reception and the short presentations delivered by the candidates throughout the week. The video is also on the city of Ashland's Web site at .

Through this Friday, residents are encouraged to fill out comment forms about the public works director search. Those comment forms are on the Web site and can be e-mailed to Mayor John Morrison at john@council.ashland.or.us.

The finalists toured Ashland with city staff on Monday morning and were interviewed by city department heads in the afternoon before the public reception that evening.

Panels of city officials, volunteers from city commissions and a public works professional from outside Ashland will interview the finalists today.

The city of Ashland will likely make a tentative job offer to a candidate next week and then complete a background check and site visit, City Administrator Martha Bennett said.

The city of Ashland is searching for a replacement for public works director Paula Brown, who resigned in December 2007 to spend more time with her family. She continued to work part-time for the city to finish projects.

Ashland engineering services manager Jim Olson has been serving as interim public works director.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit .