City engineer retires after 30 years
SALISBURY — Another top administrator is retiring from the city of Salisbury.
City Engineer Dan Mikkelson, 53, retires today, the 30th anniversary of his career working for the cities of Charlotte and Salisbury.
His departure comes on the heels of the retirement two months ago of city Planning Director Joe Morris. Between the two, Morris and Mikkelson had 65 years of experience in municipal government.
Mikkelson said he has always hoped to retire after 30 years of service but thought he would have to work longer after the economy tanked. However, son Skyler earned a scholarship to the University of South Carolina, so Mikkelson said he can retire as planned.
Although Morris went to work for the LandTrust for Central North Carolina the day after he retired, Mikkelson said he has no plans to start another job right away. With his son headed to college from Salisbury High School and his daughter Hayley graduating from college and moving to Raleigh, Mikkelson said he will spend as much time with them as possible during the next couple months.
“This summer is my last chance to spend special time with the kids,” he said. “I will do as much with the family as I can this summer.”
Mikkelson was named one of the American Public Works Association’s Top Ten Leaders of 2012. He said he will be available to work part-time for the city if needed.
“Dan has been outstanding for the city,” City Manager Doug Paris said.
Paris has named Wendy Brindle, the city’s traffic engineering manager, as interim city engineer. Brindle is an 18-year veteran of the city of Salisbury and worked as an engineer for Charlotte, Gastonia and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
She recently graduated from the City Manager’s Leadership Academy, Paris’ training program for city administrators.
“I like to promote from within,” Paris said.
Brindle will serve as both traffic engineer and city engineer for the time being, Paris said. He said he is considering merging the two positions, which would save about $150,000, but hasn’t made a decision.
Paris and his staff are preparing a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Brindle will take over the city’s sometimes strained relationship with Norfolk Southern railroad, which Mikkelson handled for years, including the city’s pursuit of rehabilitating Shober Bridge.
Brindle will not inherit another controversial project, however. Paris said the city will keep Statesville Boulevard the way it is — four lanes — when the state restripes the road.
The city had considered using the restriping opportunity to make the boulevard three lanes with a bike lane, which would have slowed down traffic. While some liked the idea, many neighbors strongly opposed the change.
“The road will be repaved and stay as it is,” Paris said. “We didn’t have the time needed to properly seek community consensus.”
When Morris left, Paris named longtime City Planner Janet Gapen as interim planning director. Her former position remains vacant, and Paris said he will look for a permanent planning director.
Since Paris took the reins at the city two years ago, several top administrators have left, including Morris, Mikkelson, Public Information Director Karen Wilkinson and Fibrant Director Mike Crowell.
Other than Crowell, who was replaced by Mike Jury from the private sector, Paris turned to other city employees to fill the vacancies, at least temporarily.
“We have a lot of talented people to step in,” he said.
When he became city manager, Paris consolidated four positions and promoted Zach Kyle as the new assistant city manager for human resources and Elaney Hasselmann as the new public information and communications manager.
The change saved $180,000 and helped balance this year’s budget, Paris said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.