DPW Director Reaches Final Day
Les Bland is retiring after 41 years with the city of Fenton.
When Les Bland became the Fenton Department of Public Works foreman in 1971 at age 22, he said those around him didn’t think he would last.
“I was young, stupid and partying too much,” Bland said. “They didn’t think I would last five years.”
Bland proved them wrong, however, and kept the job for 41 years. His last official day with the city was Friday.
“My health isn’t what is used to be. I’m raising an 8-year-old grandson. With all the layoffs and the budget, it was time to get out of dodge,” Bland said.
Bland doesn’t plan to go far, however, as he will work with his replacement, which city manager Lynn Markland expects to announce next week.
The longtime director plans to remain involved with boards and commissions in the city, and will also consider running for city council later this year.
"I’m going to wait and see how that falls,” Bland said. “I may do that, I may not. It depends if I feel like getting back on the hot seat.”
Bland started with the city as a skilled laborer for the Department of Public Works in 1969, became foreman in 1971 and then director in 1979.
He won the American Public Works Association Top Ten Award in 2005, an honor only bestowed among 10 DPW directors nationwide each year for their work in their city. Bland said it was a humbling award since he was in competition with the big cities across the country.
The 63-year-old said the last five years, however, might have been the biggest challenge with the job as the department has been forced to do more because of the budget cuts.
“We have six guys to plow 60 miles of roads,” Bland said. “It’s been tough trying to get stuff done without the money to do it.”
Bland has also overseen countless road projects and improvements and said he can’t drive anywhere without checking the condition of the roadway.
“It must be implanted in my brain,” he said.
His said his biggest accomplishments, however, were building the new water treatment plant and the DPW garage. Cleaning up the mess left by the 2007 tornado touch down was another big challenge, Bland said.
He added that he has also prided himself on having an open door policy and being honest.
“My door has always been open and you are going to get an answer,” Bland said. “You might not like that answer, but you are going to get one.”
Bland said he has enjoyed working with his fellow employees, including nine city managers, countless council members and many other colleagues that have passed away.
He said his love of Fenton will never waver.
“It’s just a nice town. It’s a great place to raise a family,” he said. “What more could you ask for?”
At Bland’s last official city council meeting Monday, the council gave him a standing ovation.
“Bless your heart,” said Mayor Pro-Tem John Rausch, who has known Bland for 35 years and worked with him for 15. “I give you a salute.”
Said Fenton Mayor Sue Osborn, “You’ve done an outstanding job. We don’t know what we will do without you.”