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Q&A: New Carroll County chief of resource management wants to focus on education, communication

Chris Heyn is the new bureau chief of resource management at Carroll County Government.
Chris Heyn is the new bureau chief of resource management at Carroll County Government.(Courtesy Photo)

Carroll County’s new bureau chief of resource management brings 27 years of experience to the table.

Chris Heyn has big shoes to fill considering his predecessor spent 42 years working for the county.

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But Heyn is up to the challenge. The Bureau of Resource Management exists to protect and manage natural resources for use and enjoyment by the citizens of Carroll County, according to its website, and Heyn is at the helm of that task.

Just over a month into the new role, Heyn connected with the Carroll County Times to share his vision for the bureau and how he plans to help the citizens of Carroll.

Q: What are your responsibilities as the bureau chief of resource management?

A: The Bureau of Resource Management is responsible for the protection and management of water, soil, and forestry resources in the county. This includes interpreting and applying laws and regulations for the protection of the environment and the safety of the public. We also manage the county’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which stems from the federal Clean Water Act and requires that we make improvements to the quality of the water in our local streams as well as ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

As bureau chief, I manage a team of technical experts who I admire for their knowledge, respect of the environment, and their desire to help citizens. I ensure that they have the administrative support, tools, training, technical assistance, and budget to efficiently perform their jobs. We have a small staff compared to other jurisdictions, but we accomplish a lot.

Q: Your predecessor had 42 years of experience with the county, in what capacity did you work with Gale Engles previously and what did you learn from her?

A: I have been the county watershed restoration engineer for six years working directly for Gale. There isn’t anyone else in my 27-year career who I have respected more as a boss or co-worker. Gale has a passion for life, work, and the people around her that is infectious and inspiring. As an engineer, my focus is often technical in nature. Gale taught me to look beyond the immediate technical issues and see the big picture, how they impact people, and how to work as a team to resolve them. I have been blessed to work with Gale and to have her as a friend.

Q: What are your goals as bureau chief?

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A: My primary goal is to maintain the professionalism, passion, and positive work environment that Gale and the rest of the staff created here in the bureau. I also want to focus on education and communication. We are a government agency that restricts actions of citizens based on laws and regulations. People in general don’t like being limited in what they want to do. However, if we do a good job in educating people and communicating the reasons behind regulations, it improves the dialogue and hopefully leads to solutions that benefit everyone.

Q: What did you do professionally before you began this position? What experience do you bring to the role?

A: I was a consultant for 17 years where I specialized in assisting county and state organizations with stormwater design and NPDES permit compliance. In 2010, I joined Carroll County as the engineering reviewer in the Bureau of Development Review and then in 2013 I joined the Bureau of Resource Management as the watershed restoration engineer. In that role, I oversaw the technical aspects of the design and construction of stormwater management facilities such as the Westminster Community Pond.

The majority of the work that our bureau does is related to water resources, which has been the focus of my entire career. The one piece that is new to me in the bureau is forest conservation and landscaping. I am quickly learning these codes and I have great staff to rely on.

Q: How do you interact with citizens as bureau chief?

A: I am typically the initial point of contact with people who have questions regarding environmental issues such as flooding, erosion, or change due to development. If I can’t personally help them, I am happy to put them in touch with the appropriate agency or member of my staff. I am also involved in proactively reaching out to citizens when we have a project proposed in their neighborhoods. We hold public meetings to discuss projects when they are in the planning and design stages and then again when we are ready to begin construction. I’m proud of the projects that we do and welcome the opportunity to discuss them with citizens.

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Q: What do you want citizens to know about your department? Who should they contact if they have questions?

A: It is very cliché, but we are here to help. We work for all citizens of Carroll County to ensure that environmental laws and regulations are followed. We don’t write laws; we enforce them and help people understand them. This means we assist and treat developers with the same respect and responsiveness as citizens who wish to preserve resources that may be impacted by change.

If anyone has questions about our bureau and the programs that we are responsible for, please visit the county website [carrollcountymd.gov] where there is plenty of information about our bureau and appropriate contact information.

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