Public Works Director Marc Richards retires

August 12, 2018

NEEDLES — A long and eventful 22-year career has come to an end as Marc Richards announced his retirement from the city of Needles as their public works director.

Richards’ last official day with the city was July 27, 2018.

“I started working with the city in August 1996. I initially came here as a mechanic and I stayed as a mechanic for about 13 years before I became the public works director,” said Richards. “From when I started to work here until now our fleet has improved immensely but there’s always room for improvement.”

City Manager Rick Daniels said, “He (Richards) has been my go-to guy the entire time that I’ve been here. When Marc says something will get done it gets done. He’s one of the most humble that I’ve ever worked with and with the greatest sense of public service. He’s truly going to be missed.”

Before Richards started with the city he had experience working as a mechanic for a couple of companies including 10 years at Southern California Edison.

“When I first started as a mechanic in the old public works yard it was kind of a mess,” said Richards. “It was hard to go into the shop without crawling all over stuff. We renovated that whole place and did a lot of changes in the yard and we did a lot with a lot less. We had some antique shelves that were in the warehouse and we de-nailed them, saved the wood and I built offices out of them. In those days the city didn’t have a lot of money so we had to think outside the box to get things done.”

Richards has seen the progression of the city of Needles from where it was when he was hired until now.

“Something like Jack Smith Park getting built really helped the city in a very positive way and I hope the city pursues that even more,” said Richards. “As the public works director, I knew that our roads, curbs, and gutters had been neglected for a long time. We could do what we could do with what we had. But it’s getting better.”

Going from mechanic to director of public works has a big learning curve so there were a couple of things that Richards had to learn quickly.

“Being a career mechanic and working in many shops I really wasn’t in the public eye that much,” said Richards. “Being the public works director requires a lot of community engagement which made me put on my politician hat a couple of times and explain to irate people why things aren’t getting done. Sometimes I had to bite my tongue and keep a calm demeanor because it was just part of the job. People in Needles are good people and I’m going to miss working with the public.”

A career lasting 22 years will produce many fond memories in any job and for Richards, this remains true.

“Around the late ’90s or early 2000s I was able to restore the canon that is now in front of El Garces at the mechanic shop,” said Richards. “For me, that was very important not only because I like to restore things in my spare time but because I love history and this town has so much of it. “I was also involved with the restoration of the El Garces and being a part of that was a great privilege,” continued Richards. “I just oversaw the contractors and mostly did quality control.”

“On the topic of restoration, one of my personal projects with the city is to restore the original 1923 American LaFrance Fire Truck,” continued Richards. “It’s funded by donations and not by the city and I’ve run out of funds. The chassis is complete, the motor is rebuilt and it’s up on wheels but this fire truck was one of the first in Needles. We still need about $10,000 to $15,000 more to go in order to fully restore it. I’ve always had the dream of using the fire truck during the parades that we have in town, like the Christmas Parade and having Santa Clause sitting in it.”

Richards’ advice to future public works directors is to enjoy the job, be thankful you have a job and love people.

“I think that the public works director needs to be the intermediary between the work and the interaction with the public,” said Richards. “There’s a lot that goes into this job and it’s really a thankless job but at the end of the day it’s a fulfilling job.”

Donations toward the restoration of the 1923 LaFrance Fire Truck can be taken to the city offices at 817 3rd St. or to the Needles Regional Museum (when it opens again in September) at 929 Front St.

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