‘We fix things,’ says new (former) Public Works chief

Director Rick Davis has focused on modernizing Covington's Department of Public Works and improving customer service.

COVINGTON, Ky. - Covington Public Works Director Rick Davis has a clear and succinct explanation for why his job is satisfying: 

“We fix stuff,” he said.
Being able to see the tangible embodiment of his Department’s work - in the form of smooth-surfaced streets, handicapped accessible sidewalks and curbs, freshly mowed grass edges, cleanly pruned trees, and well-maintained parks equipment - motivates him each day.
“You get to see the end result, and you get to see how public infrastructure fits into the vitality of the City,” Davis said. “What we do is an important component of ongoing efforts to both attract economic development and elevate the quality of life of Covington residents.”
As part of the Covington City Commission’s legislative consent agenda tomorrow night, Davis is slated to be officially named to his position by the City Commission as one more formal step in the strategic reorganization of City Hall.
Davis has been running various versions of the Department since he came to the City in 2013 as director of public improvements and assistant city engineer. Previously he worked as branch manager of engineering support for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Northern Kentucky office.
But under the old management structure at City Hall, Davis reported to the city engineer, who as director of development also was in charge of economic and business development, code enforcement, housing, historic preservation, parks and recreation, public improvements, federal grant programs, planning and zoning, and parking.
Under the strategic reorganization created by City Manager David Johnston, the engineer’s office falls within Public Works, and Davis reports directly to the City Manager.
“Rick’s been running that Department at a high level since I arrived,” Johnston said. “His great performance warrants this step, and it elevates the role of Public Works in the development of Covington.”
Davis oversees a staff of 75 employees and a budget of almost $25 million - a General Fund budget of $8.3 million for operations and a $16.5 million capital budget for projects.
He said his focus has been ramping up efficiency, modernizing all facets of the Department, expanding use of 21st Century technology and materials, and improving interactions with residents. That work has included: 
  • A new iWorQ Service Request app and online portal that makes it easier for citizens to not only report problems with streets, sidewalks and other public infrastructure but also track their requests. 
  • More pro-active scheduling of citywide services like leaf collection, mowing, street resurfacing, and tree pruning. 
  • Setting up a five-year fleet management plan to replace vehicles and equipment, with the goal of saving money, increasing safety, and reducing down time. 
  • Quicker response to snow and ice storms. 
  • Conservation-related activities, like installing energy-saving LED lights in City facilities and using dense plantings around detention ponds to slow water run-off. 
  • Changing the asphalt used on City streets. 
  • More focused attention to administrative tasks like writing grants, managing contracts, staff training, and partnering with planning organizations. 
“While diverse, this is as rewarding a job as you can have,” Davis said.
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