Public Works Director

Cedar Rapids, IA | Full-time


The Position

The City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, seeks a strong customer-focused, team-focused, strategic leader to serve as the next Public Works Director. Demonstrating both technical and interpersonal competence, the next Director will lead the Public Works Department by balancing a strong operational focus and long-term strategic approach to the City’s assets.

The Public Works Director provides leadership and direction to an integrated and collaborative team of professionals with the full range of Public Works services through six main sections: Engineering, Traffic, Streets, Real Estate and Right of Way, Sewer, and Administration. Public Works includes design and construction of city and private development projects, engineering, operation, and maintenance of traffic control projects, maintenance and rehabilitation of streets and winter maintenance, securing property interest for City projects, right of way oversight, and the disposition of City assets.

The Director is responsible for planning and implementing programs for the community and working collaboratively with regional, state, and federal agencies. The Director works very closely with the City Manager and Deputy City Manager on developing the City’s capital improvement budget, executing capital improvement plans, assisting in securing the necessary funding and resources for projects, and reviewing all work activities to ensure efficient and safe operations and conformance with established state, county, and city standards, regulations, and policies.

The Public Works Department is responsible for the community's infrastructure, including streets, bridges, traffic signals and traffic flow, storm sewer/stormwater, and flood control operations. Reviewing private development projects for compliance with the City's standards and development and implementation of significant departmental policies are also part of the Public Works Director's purview. The Director manages the development and implementation of the Public Works Department strategy, collaborating with the Division Leaders to create subsequent work plans, goals, objectives, policies, and priorities for each area. Direct Reports for the Public Works Director include the following positions: City Engineer, City Traffic Engineer, Real Estate Services Manager, Sewer Operations Manager, Streets Operations Manager, Public Works Program Coordinator, and Administrative Assistant.


  • Develop strong working relationships with the City Manager, Deputy City Manager, Senior Leadership Team, Public Works Department staff, and other key staff members; spend time learning operating systems and work practices and meeting with key staff.
  • Meet with the Public Works staff across all levels of the organization to develop sound working relationships and trust; develop an ongoing, regular meeting schedule and communication system and focus on collaboration of scheduling project work to ensure proper use of City resources and increased understanding of City project interconnectedness.
  • Work with Public Works, Communications Team, and City Manager’s Office staff to develop and implement a consistent approach to community engagement on capital projects to increase organizational credibility and value-add with residents.
  • Collaborate with the Army Corps of Engineers and other flood control stakeholders to continue the flood control system project to protect the City from future flooding.
  • Communicate needs for ongoing street systems improvements through the Paving for Progress Program funded through the local option sales tax.
  • Develop the Public Works Department budget, short and long-term capital plan working with key departmental staff. Develop a systematic approach to ensuring funds are dedicated and explicitly programmed for crucial maintenance and lifecycle costs of existing and older assets in addition to new projects/assets. Identify future infrastructure needs and expenses for the five growth areas in EnvisionCR.
  • Work with the City Manager’s Office and departmental staff to assess the future operational space and maintenance needs of the Public Works Department; develop a short-term and long-term plan to address these needs.
  • Manage the Public Works accreditation process to submit for approval by December 2021.
  • Continue efforts for the Public Works Department to engage in organizational health initiatives that improve city processes through integration and collaboration.

The Successful Candidate

The Public Works Director possesses strong leadership skills and the ability to connect with staff, elected officials, and the growing community to effectively drive change. The Public Works Director is committed to organizational maturity and embraces the ongoing process of developing employees, updating procedures, and increasing capabilities and technology readiness to deliver excellence in our services. With an eye on process improvement and innovation, the Director brings a fresh perspective and a modern approach to public works projects and initiatives. This person values creativity and embraces alternative methods and new approaches to problem-solving.

Thorough knowledge of equipment, facilities, materials, methods, and procedures used in the design, operations, and maintenance of transportation systems, stormwater treatment, storage, and distribution systems is essential. With a background in one or more traditional public works disciplines, construction, and/or engineering, the Public Works Director brings experience working on a wide variety of projects and fully understands the project's lifecycle. The Director has exceptional financial acumen and readily communicates the cost and budget implications of ongoing infrastructure needs while articulating why improvements are needed for community members. A successful track record of strategic planning and vision for future growth is essential. Experience with departmental accreditation is a plus.

An effective leader, the Public Works Director models behaviors expected throughout the organization, including collaboration, a commitment to high-quality work, and sound customer service. The successful candidate is team-oriented, establishes clear expectations, effectively delegates, and holds others accountable. The Public Works Director is known for supporting staff and removing barriers to enable success. The ideal candidate employs a leadership style that invites participation and gathers input from the talented Public Works team. In addition, the successful candidate enjoys being an essential and active member of the management team.


Minimum requirements include a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related field, and seven to nine years of experience managing infrastructure design and engineering activities. In addition, significant experience with organizational leadership, managing large operational and capital budgets, traffic engineering and transportation policy development, planning, and implementation in an organization similar to Cedar Rapids is required.

Preferred qualifications include Professional Engineering (PE) Licensure, a master's degree, and experience in at least one Public Works Department service area other than transportation. Additional preferred qualifications include a background in municipal finance and budgeting, expenditure tracking, bonding, connection charges, utility rate setting, capital improvement programming, and project management. Experience within a city, county, or regional office or firm that does considerable work for local government agencies is preferred. Knowledge or understanding of State of Iowa laws and regulations relating to municipal public works is also preferred.

All City Directors are required to live within the Cedar Rapids city limits within a reasonable timeframe after appointment. This will be discussed at the offer stage.

Inside the City of Cedar Rapids

Since 2006, the City of Cedar Rapids has operated under the council-manager form of government. The elected body appoints a City Manager to oversee the day-to-day administrative operations of city government. The Cedar Rapids City Council consists of eight Council members and the Mayor. The Mayor and three Council members are elected at large, with the remaining five members elected from one of the City's five districts. All members of the Council, including the Mayor, are elected to four-year terms.

The organization consists of the following departments: Building Services, Community Development, Finance, Fire, Human Resources, Parks and Recreation, Police, Public Works, and Utilities. Each department reports to the City Manager, the Deputy City Manager, and the Finance Director.

The FY 2021 expenditure budget is $600 Million, of which $142.2 Million is appropriated to the General Fund. Approximately 1300 employees encompass the City’s workforce in FY 2022.

Vision Statement

“Cedar Rapids, a vibrant urban hometown – a beacon for people and businesses invested in building a greater community now and for the next generation.”

Awards and Recognition

  • 14th best-run city in America in 2020 (WalletHub)
  • #2 most recession-resistant city in 2020 (SmartAsset)
  • 11th best American city to live in after the pandemic (Business Insider)
  • #1 best place in America for children for five years in a row (SmartAsset)
  • 18th safest city in America in 2019 (WalletHub)
  • 12th best city to buy a house in America in 2019 (Niche)
  • 16th most livable mid-sized city in America in 2019 (SmartAsset)
  • Top 100 best places to live in 2019 (
  • 2020 most caring city in Iowa (Insurify)
  • 8th best city for living the American dream in 2019 (SmartAsset)

Inside The Public Works Department

The Public Works Department maintains the City’s infrastructure to support the growing community. With a staff of over 180 employees and a budget of $7.6 Million, the department is responsible for six sections:

  • Engineering: design and construction of city projects and inspection of private development projects.
  • Traffic: engineering, operation, and maintenance of all traffic control on the City’s transportation network.
  • Streets: maintenance and rehabilitation of streets and winter maintenance and snow removal.
  • Real Estate and Right of Way: securing property interest for City projects, right of way use oversight, and the disposition of City assets.
  • Sewer: operation, maintenance, and regulation compliance of all sanitary sewers and storm water conveyance systems within the City.
  • Administration: planning and directing all operations of the Public Works Department, including asset management, budget, customer service, and training.

Public Works Department Statistics

  • The Public Works Department currently maintains over 640 centerline street miles (almost 2K lane miles).
  • The Public Works Department completes over 7K work orders annually.
  • The Engineering Division oversees the design and construction of projects with a total construction cost of over $60M each year.
  • During a typical winter, which averages 32 inches of snow, over 9K tons of salt improve roadway conditions during snow and ice events.
  • The Traffic Division maintains over 1.8M linear feet of pavement markings and symbols each year and 40K traffic signs. The City also supports more than 200 signals, flashers, and other electronic traffic control devices.
  • The City has 80 miles of off and on-street bicycle facilities throughout the City and into the County and earned Bronze status as a Bicycle Friendly Community. The City added 5-miles in FY 2020 and expects to add 7-miles in FY 2021.
  • In FY 2020, the City issued over 3K right of way permits. In FY 2020, the City completed 207 partial and total acquisitions required for the City’s public improvement projects.
  • On a rotational basis, streets mow the quadrants of town using routing similar to the sweeping program.
  • Two mowing rotations of right of way are completed each month, including City-owned properties.
  • In FY 2020, Streets completed 20 projects amid a pandemic that changed operations to allow workers to report to work safely.

Recent Accomplishments

  • Paving for Progress construction included approximately ten-lane miles of roadway improvements to complete 25 projects (Streets Division completed 19 of the 25).
  • The Traffic division converted 500K linear feet (25%) to a durable pavement marking material with a 2 to 5- year service life in FY 2020.
  • Real Estate and Right of Way acquired property approval on three projects with USACE in FY 2020 for flood control construction to begin.
  • Dedicated staff to the August 2020 derecho cleanup, traffic control, and opened streets to emergency access.

The Community

Situated on the banks of the Cedar River in eastern Iowa, Cedar Rapids is a thriving Midwestern community rich in history, art, and culture. As Iowa's second-largest city, Cedar Rapids is a central economic hub and enjoys a diverse, stable business environment. The community is affordable, inclusive, and safe – the qualities often cited as the reasons Cedar Rapids is one of the nation's best places to live, work, and raise a family. Cedar Rapids has something for everyone with ample parkland and green space, a large variety of nightlife and restaurant options, and a year-round calendar of exciting events.

There is never a shortage of things to do in Cedar Rapids. The City's expansive park and trail system span more than 4,170 acres of land and green space, and the Cedar River provides a wide range of water recreation opportunities. Cedar Rapids even has a small island on the Cedar River. Mays Island houses the Linn County District Court and Correctional Center, the Veterans Memorial Building and Coliseum, and two small parks. Downtown Cedar Rapids is a shopping and dining destination, and the nearby Veterans Memorial Stadium is home to Minor League Baseball's Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Minnesota Twins affiliate team.

For those seeking culture and history, the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, African American Museum of Iowa, and historic Paramount Theatre are sure to please. The Czech Village/New Bohemia District, located in the heart of Cedar Rapids, celebrates the community's distinct Czech heritage. Home to the most extensive collection of Grant Wood paintings in the world at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and the Brucemore mansion – Iowa's only National Trust Historic Site – Cedar Rapids has unique offerings that can't be topped.

Cedar Rapids boasts a large and diverse tax base due to its substantial commercial, health care, food processing, manufacturing, telecommunication, and aerospace companies. The City's largest employers include Collins Aerospace Transamerica, St. Luke's Hospital, and Cedar Rapids Community School District. Other sizeable industrial utility users include International Paper, Ingredion, ADM, JRS Pharma, Cargill, and Dupont. General Mills and Quaker Oats also have plants here.

The Cedar Rapids Community School District serves most students in the community, with portions of the City served by the Linn-Mar Community School District and the College Community School District. Higher education opportunities are available at one of the two private liberal arts universities in Cedar Rapids – Coe College and Mt. Mercy University. Kirkwood Community College is in Cedar Rapids and the University of Iowa is located less than 30 miles south of the City.

Every year the Cedar Rapids community experiences the wonders of changing seasons in typical Midwestern fashion. Some say that taking the time to appreciate everyday beauty extends life, almost like an extra season is added to every year. Cedar Rapids offers a unique balance of big city amenities without all the typical hassles and headaches of a large city. This extra time afforded to residents and visitors is why Cedar Rapids is known as "The City of Five Seasons." This fifth season affords residents time to enjoy all other seasons and to enjoy life.

Quick Facts

  • Population: 133,562
  • Median Household Income: $58,511
  • Median Home Value: $141,800
  • Median Age: 36.3

All demographic information was sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Compensation and Benefits

The full pay range for the Public Works Director is $130,641.92 – $182,898.69. The hiring range is $130,641.92 – $156,591.02, depending on qualifications, with an excellent benefits package. Learn more about our options and employee-based benefits here.

How to Apply

Applications will be accepted electronically by The Novak Consulting Group. Applicants complete a brief online form and are prompted to provide a cover letter and resume. Applications will be accepted through September 9, 2021.


Please direct questions to Catherine Tuck Parrish at or 513-221-0500.

Download Recruitment Brochure