GREENFIELD — A 13-year veteran of city utility departments but a novice in roadwork has been promoted to city street commissioner.
Tyler Rankins was appointed head of the Greenfield Street Department, filling the vacancy created in the spring when longtime commissioner Jim Hahn resigned.
Rankins, 32, is a lifelong Greenfield resident. He wants to make the street department more progressive in overseeing repairs and maintenance of the city’s streets.
“We have big plans for this department,” Rankins said. “It’s going to take awhile, but I want to be a more proactive department than reactive department.”
That was exactly what Mayor Chuck Fewell was looking for in a new leader. Department heads are appointed by the mayor, and Fewell said in April that he wanted a progressive department and a commissioner who was willing to grow, learn and try new ideas.
Fewell said he found that person in Rankins, who had spent almost 10 years at the city’s wastewater treatment plant and 2½ years as a lineman at Greenfield Power & Light before becoming a truck driver for the street department 10 months ago.
“I didn’t think 10 months ago that I would be the street commissioner,” Rankins said, adding that he applied for the job hoping that his leadership skills would set him apart. “I really care about this city. I always have. Everything I’ve done I wanted to do my best for the citizens.”
Mike Fruth, city utilities director, said six people were interviewed for the job; four were city employees, and two were not.
“I think based on what the mayor is looking for, Tyler should be very successful,” Fruth said. “I think he has the character traits that are important to the position, and he should do well.”
Still, Rankins is the first to say he doesn’t know everything. He attended a conference for street commissioners last week and says he will be relying on others to guide him in leading the department, from managing a budget to communicating with the public.
“I said to the mayor, ‘I’m going to be honest. I can’t do this by myself,’” Rankins said. “And I have a lot of help here.”
Rankins hopes the department can move from “being a complaints department to being a street department.” Employees will still follow work orders based on the public’s calls, he said, but they will also be expected to care for problems as they arise, from potholes to a tree limb that needs trimmed.
“Even if you’re going to another work order, if you see something that needs to be done, do it, and then go to your next work order,” he said. “Making this place run like a well-oiled machine: That’s what our goal is.”
When it comes to infrastructure problems from Mother Nature, Rankins said he hopes the department can continue its course. Snow removal is a strong suit for the department, Rankins said.
Rankins has also met with Gary Pool, engineer for the county highway department. Since both departments are funded by taxpayers and are next door to each other, Rankins said it makes sense that they would work together in equipment and material usage.
Rankins said he hopes the community is patient with the department as he strives to make it more progressive in the coming months.
“I just want to make it more efficient,” he said. “It’s been the same way so long; we need it to go in a different direction.”