FERNDALE — For Loyd Cureton, running the city’s Department of Public Works is more than just a job; it’s a chance to make a difference in the community one day at a time.
“I’m one of those weirdos who actually enjoys making sure that the roads are plowed and that a water main break gets fixed,” he said. “The great thing about public works is that, even though we mostly stay behind the scenes, we get a chance to positively impact the lives of residents every single day.”
Cureton, 52, officially became Ferndale’s new DPW director Nov. 26. His appointment came about three months after he was hired to serve as interim director, following the retirement of former director Byron Photiades.
“I’ve had the unique opportunity to work here for the last few months,” he said, “and then I was fortunate enough to be asked to stay on for the long term. I originally thought that this job would only be 90 days or perhaps six months, but everyone here has been so friendly and so welcoming that it made the decision to stay very easy for me.”
Photiades, 61, had served Ferndale for nearly four decades, including 26 years spent as its DPW director, before abruptly turning in his retirement papers to the city Aug. 3. In Photiades’ absence, the city opted to contract out its DPW services with the Livonia-based engineering and planning firm Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment (OHM). On Aug. 27, the City Council appointed Cureton, a former DPW director in Walled Lake with more than 20 years of municipal experience, to serve as the city’s interim DPW director for 90 days.
But it quickly became apparent to Ferndale officials that Cureton would make a great candidate for the full-time position. According to City Manager April Lynch, about 25 people applied for the job before city administration narrowed the list down to 10. Three finalists, Cureton among them, were then brought in for interviews.
“DPW directors tend to stay put for a long time, so we knew this was a really big decision,” Lynch said. “We felt like Loyd had a lot of great experience working with Walled Lake and OHM, especially in the area of water and sewer (services). He has a really diversified skill set and some terrific experience with management and budgets, which is exactly what we were looking for.”
Lynch was also impressed with how smoothly Cureton helped the Public Works Department move forward to a new era after Photiades’ retirement.
“It’s a big transition whenever you lose someone like Byron, who had so much knowledge and experience with our city,” she said. “But there were a lot of similarities (to Walled Lake) in the day-to-day operations of the department, so Loyd was able to pick things up and get started right away. We are definitely very excited to have a new DPW director in place before the snow starts to fall.”
Mayor Dave Coulter agreed. He pointed out that Cureton came highly recommended to Ferndale officials, and his three months as interim director served as an ideal trial period to assess his leadership abilities.
“The great thing about that was that we got to see him in action, and we were all very impressed,” Coulter said. “No city department is more important than other departments, but the services that DPW provides are some of the things that people notice first about a city. So it’s critical to have someone in that position who has all the great knowledge and experience that Loyd has. I, for one, am delighted to have him on board as our new DPW director.”
Cureton said that his transition from interim director to permanent director has been “nearly seamless.” He noted that, as his department shifts from fall leaf collection to winter snow removal, there are a number of DPW projects on the horizon in Ferndale. These jobs range from upgrading to high-tech water meters for the city’s nearly 10,000 customers, to making the city parks more accessible, to providing better customer service by being more responsive to city residents.
The new DPW director is also happy to serve as a stabilizing force for the department and to keep things moving in a positive direction. His role in Ferndale has been so satisfying, in fact, that he routinely gets to work a half-hour early each morning to begin preparing for the day.
“Maybe I’m still in the honeymoon period, but I just get along with everyone here really well,” Cureton said. “In general, there’s a really great group of people over here with a lot of talent and a wide variety of responsibilities. I just try to hold myself to a very high standard so that I can help deliver the best possible services to our residents. The fact that people here are really involved and truly care about the community makes it even more rewarding — it makes this job feel a lot less like work.”
For more information on the Ferndale Department of Public Works, call (248) 546-2519.
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