Service in the City: Housing and Community Development Department

  • Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The City of Georgetown is growing, and behind the scenes fostering that growth is the city’s Housing and Community Development Department.

The department may only have five employees, but from the scope of work they cover, one would never know it.

Rick Martin, building and zoning administrator, takes the lead in the department.

In addition to fulfilling his everyday duties like completing building inspections and approving permits for new construction coming to the city, he also reports to City Council.

He’s been with the department for seven years.

Matt Millwood, the GIS (Geographical Information Systems) planner, has worked there for eight years and is responsible for mapping the city and its projects.

His work helps keep flood insurance premiums down, and is often used to help emergency services departments during disasters, such as when the sinkholes popped up across Georgetown in 2011. He also manages the city website.

Janet Grant, who’s worked for the city for 10 years, is the code enforcer and is responsible for keeping the city in line with code.

If a house appears to be unsafe, a neighbor hasn’t mowed their grass in months, or a sign is put up illegally, she knows about it.

She sends letters to businesses and residents to keep them in check, and if need be, goes to court for the issues. She also receives complaints from the community.

Cindy Thompson, the department’s only part-time employee, coordinates Keep Georgetown Beautiful.

Through her efforts, the city has trees and flowers planted in public right-of-ways, landscaped parks, and she makes sure they are maintained through recycling and litter pick-up programs.

She also organizes the summertime Moves in the Park. She’s worked for the city for two years. Lastly, Debra Grant has been the face of the department for eight years.

As the administrative assistant, she greets all customers who visit the City Hall office in person and also answers the phones. She manages the department’s calendar, schedules all committee and board meetings, and handles filings for building permits.

Most citizens may see the department staff in their office from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the team also works weekends and nights during a crisis.

For example, during the ice storms earlier this year, it was the Housing and Community Development staff that opened City Hall to the public for those without heat and electricity.

And if someone isn’t in the office for a day, the department doesn’t stop.

“We have a staff meeting each week. If anything is going on in this office, everybody knows it. It’s not all in one person’s court,” said Millwood.

He said the department prides itself on being cross-trained so even if someone is absent, the customer can still get the help they need from another employee.

Quickly returning phone calls is also another point of pride for him. Grant said one of her most favorite elements of her job is working closely with Thompson to help organize community service projects.

“I work with Keep Georgetown Beautiful and its volunteers, like the ROTC and churches. I work with residents who need help, like with roofing or painting, and it’s a big joy watching these kids come out and help these residents.

“A lot of the time they are older and there’s no way they could make those improvements by themselves.”

Of her passion, Thompson said, “Somebody needs to be watching out for the city, making sure we recycle and pick up litter, that our parks are clean and our streets are pretty. … I like working with volunteers and youth, and I like to see the beautification efforts of Keep Georgetown Beautiful at work.” The group said to work in their department, employees have to be organized, enjoy working with the public, multitask, and be a team player.

Debra Grant said the staff is so tight-knit, they feel more like a family than co-workers.

“We have a family environment in our department,” she said. “When I go to the office in the morning, I’m leaving home and coming ‘home.’”

Martin said for him, the work the team does is essential for improving the city they all know and love.Without the department, the city would have no growth, including building, beautification and maintenance.

“The hospital, the new Goodwill – if we didn’t show up for work, all of those jobs, all of that growth, would stop,” he explained. And he isn’t the only one in the department who is passionate about its role in making Georgetown what it is.

“I just think we’re the best department in the whole city,” said Grant with a smile.

“I second that,” said Martin.

He continued: “This isn’t just where we work, this is our home too, and we want it to be great.”

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