Wichita's Well-Known Public Works Director Dies Of Apparent Heart Attack

By: News Release Email
By: News Release Email

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Wichita city employees are mourning the loss of one of their leaders today. Public Works Director Chris Carrier died after crashing his motorcycle Sunday afternoon.

Preliminary autopsy reports say Carrier suffered a heart attack shortly before the accident.

If you haven't been stopped by a train at 13th and Santa Fe lately, you can thank Chris Carrier. Carrier is being described by his fellow workers as a dedicated public servant who loved the city and tried every day to make it a better place to live.

"He just told me that he liked to ride his motorcycle in Riverside Park on Sundays," said City Council Member Janet Miller, recalling a conversation she had with Carrier this past Friday.

Carrier died doing exactly that Sunday afternoon. As the leader of the city's largest department, Carrier oversaw nearly 850 employees and managed a $41-million budget. He often had to deal with citizens who were unhappy for one reason or another.

"Chris took them all seriously and he was calm,"Miller said. "He had a way of exuding calmness that calmed other people down. That showed he was a rational person and that he listened."

City Engineer Mike Greene, now retired, was a personal friend of Carrier's. The two had ridden their motorcycles together. Greened said Monday that Carrier had a lot of big tasks to deal with, but always made time for the minor day-to-day issues that came across his desk.

"The community at large will see his loss and feel his loss because of the detail and involvement that he had with the activities and functions that happened in the city," Greene said.

Among those projects are the Central Rail Corridor, a $105-million project to elevate rail lines through the heart of the city/ Carrier was also instrumental in overseeing Kellogg expansion, improvements to the Cowskin Creek basin, and building up the Keeper of the Plains Plaza in Downtown Wichita to what it is today.

"He was one of those people that I say has a great feel of the true north on the compass, so to speak," said Wichita City Manager Bob Layton. "His instincts were great and he had a great way of balancing the business aspects of what we do along with what residents and citizens needs are."

Miller and Greene agreed, saying Carrier's loss will be felt by the community at large because of the detail and involvement he had in activities and functions around the city.

"He really was a man of his work and a man of his word," Miller said.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chris Carrier, the City of Wichita Public Works & Utilities Director, a career public servant and a familiar face and quick quote at City Hall, died on Sunday. The cause of his death is unknown at this time but Carrier was on his motorcycle when it crashed about 2:40 p.m. in the Riverside area.

"Yesterday, we all lost a friend and dedicated public servant in Chris Carrier,” City Manager Robert Layton said. “Simply put, Chris made a difference - to his community, colleagues and friends. His positive approach to life and constant smile will never be forgotten by any of us who knew him. Chris loved Wichita and tried every day to make it a better place for all of us to live. "

Carrier, 62, began working for the City in 1997 as the storm water utility engineer and was appointed the Director of Public Works in January 2005. He oversaw major projects that reduced flooding across the city, facilitated suburban growth and improved traffic in a city recognized for some of the nation’s best commute times.

Those projects included the award-wining Central Rail Corridor, improvements to the Keeper of the Plains, prevention and recovery related to the 1998 Cowskin Creek Halloween flood and continued expansion of Kellogg Expressway. The $105 Central Rail project raised two miles of track above the roadway in the city’s core area, providing five new bridges that carry trains over five arterial streets. The improvements allowed traffic to pass freely below the tracks, improved motorists and pedestrian safety and reduced vehicle emissions.

Carrier was a regular face and voice in media coverage of City Hall, partly because he was often available to journalists and ran one of City government’s largest departments. Layton selected him to lead a larger public works operation in March, when the Public Works and Water Utilities Departments merged to become Public Works & Utilities. Carrier welcomed the growing responsibilities.

“He greeted every task as a challenge and not a burden,” Layton said.

As head of the merged departments, Carrier was responsible for 10 divisions, 840 employees and a $41 million budget. Public Works handles various public improvement and cleanup projects including street maintenance, snow and ice removal, storm cleanup, engineering and drainage system maintenance and flood-control projects.

"Chris led by example,” Joe Pajor, the Assistant Director of Public Works & Utilities, said. “He was creative and determined in his work to address many of the most challenging issues facing our community. He always brought out the best in others and challenged them to figure a way through difficult issues and projects."

A native of Newton, Carrier was a public servant in several cities. He was Public Works Director and City Engineer for Dodge City; Director of Public Works for Ford County; City Engineer and Superintendent of Streets and Drainage for the City of Shreveport, La.; City Engineer for the City of Newton, Assistant County Engineer for Polk County and the Water Resources Engineer/Supervisor of Regulation Section for Iowa Natural Resources Council. He also worked in the private sector as Vice President and Division Manager for D.C. Construction Corporation of Louisiana and Project Engineer for Snyder & Associates, Consulting Engineers. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in Civil Engineering from the University of Kansas. He was married to Sandra and has two adult children.

Decisions regarding management of the department will come later.

Highlights of Carrier's career in Wichita;

· Drainage improvements to the Cowskin Creek from Kellogg to Maple reduced flooding for west Wichita

· Obtained funding through the Army Corps of Engineers for Cowskin Creek

· The Cadillac Lake pump station and detention basins allowed continued economic development along North Maize Road while providing additional flood control protection to the Chadsworth subdivision and neighborhoods along West Link Ditch

· Storm Water design standards – implementation of the City’s first storm water pollution prevention ordinance, and recently updated the ordinance to include the development of a County-wide storm water manual to promote uniform regulations throughout the Wichita area

· Central Rail Corridor - $105 million dollar project to elevate rail lines through the heart of the city to eliminate traffic congestion and improve safety

· Flood Prevention and Recovery - including the Halloween flood of 1998 and flood event of September 2008

· Kellogg Freeway - construction of the Kellogg and Rock Road flyover, and planning for future phases of both east and west Kellogg

· Combining Public Works and Water Utilities into the new Department of Public Works & Utilities

· Keeper of the Plains Plaza area improvements

· Improvements in the City’s Fleet Maintenance division

· Maintain existing streets, bridges, and buildings in safe and effective condition

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