‘Closer to the fire’: Craig Powers talks vision for city’s Public Works department

Published 12:01 am Sunday, February 16, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — Craig Powers, who started his career with the City of Salisbury 15 years ago working on minor design and sidewalks, is settling in as the city’s new Public Words director after former director Tony Cinquemani III retired after 35 years with the city.

In addition to Powers’ promotion, the department has been renamed to Public Works from Public Services and the administrative office has moved from 519 N. Fulton St. to W. 303 W. Franklin St. This brings all sectors of public works under one roof, which Powers says will improve efficiencies and collaboration.

Powers discovered his passion for public works with a move to street division manager. It allowed him to do engineering work and also be out in the field.

“Your day is always different,” Powers said. “There is a lot more excitement and you’re closer to the fire.”

As Powers continued working for the city, Cinquemani gave him more and more responsibilities. As the assistant public services director, Powers managed garbage, leaf and recycling waste management as well as construction and maintenance of city infrastructure that includes greenways, parks, bridges, streets and stormwater drainage systems. He also supervised project management of city infrastructure and facilities.

Cinquemani announced his retirement in October, allowing months for Powers to prepare for the transition.

“One of the last things he told me was to make sure I always take care of the guys and to keep them in the front of my mind, because those are the folks that are doing the work for the citizens,” Powers said. “I agree totally with that statement.”

Powers said he learned patience from Cinqemani, who was someone who would always come up with a plan to solve problems. Powers said he wants to be the person who jumps right in and solves any issue that arises. Among other things, Powers said, he has learned the importance of talking to others and getting feedback to create synergy, instead of a “knee jerk reaction.”

Powers said he is focused on improving efficiencies by finding technologies that can give the city a better return on its investment.

‘We just don’t want to buy new technologies just for the sake of having the new technologies,” Power said. “If you can actually save the city money in the long run, we need to be forward thinking on those things.”

He wants to continue to do outreach and education for citizens, such as working with the city’s arborist and tree board to increase the tree canopy and to grow the compost site.

Powers said Public Works can lead the city to reduce its carbon footprint.

As director, Powers said, his job is to oversee all divisions of public works.

Powers said he wants to give his employees opportunities to grow. Lately, they have taken on design-build work like designing the greenway from Old Wilkesboro Road to Jake Alexander Boulevard and reducing the silt at City Park lake. That, Powers said, has allowed the staff to build their knowledge base.

“It was a challenge and something neat for them to do,” he said. “It gets them out of the norm.”

Powers said he wants to set a culture with his employees to leave an area better than it was originally.

“We want people all the way down to the field to be empowered to make a decision to do what’s right,” Powers said.

Many of the employees are citizens of Salisbury and they want the city to look great and to operate smoothly, Powers said.

“We’re a part of the community too,” he said. “We want it to succeed as much as possible.”

Powers grew up in Salisbury, as did his parents and grandparents. One day, the city paved the road he grew up on. Powers stood in his front yard and took a picture as a paver went down the street. He sent a photo to his mom. 

“God has blessed me in a lot of different ways,” Powers said. “Being able to use the skills He gave me helps service the whole town is awesome. That’s what motivates me: that feeling of purpose.”