Teresa Gardner is the newest public works director for the City of Havre de Grace.
Gardner, 54, comes to the city from the Virginia Department of Transportation, where she worked for five years. Her most recent title was operations project delivery manager for VDOT’s central region.
The Wilmington, Del., native has worked for the Delaware Department of Transportation, where she spent 17 years, and then the City of Salisbury on the Eastern Shore, where she was the public works director. She spent three and a half years with Salisbury before going to work for VDOT in 2013, she said.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing government service, but I especially missed the Chesapeake Bay area,” Gardner said.
She and her husband, Andrew, and their dog are moving from the Richmond, Va. area and are looking for houses in Harford County with a preference for Havre de Grace. Gardner’s husband grew up in Cecil County.
“I was looking to come back to what we considered home,” she said.
Gardner said she likes Havre de Grace leaders’ vision for the city, with components such as health and safety and being financially sound and civic minded.
“I like their vision that it’s all about providing for the citizens, whether they live there, work there or visit the city,” she said.
The City Council unanimously approved a three-year contract with Gardner at its Aug. 20 meeting. Her starting salary will be $110,000 a year, Mayor William T. Martin said Wednesday.
“I like how she thinks outside the box,” said Martin, who interviewed Gardner twice. “She’s very creative with her designs and her way of thinking, which I believe will go very well with the direction our city is heading in.”
Several council members praised Gardner’s experience during the Aug. 20 meeting. Gardner was there for the vote, which was taken after the mayor and council went into closed session to discuss her contract.
“The fact that you have past experience in another municipality, I think that’s going to be a big plus for the City of Havre de Grace,” Council President David Glenn told Gardner. “We’re looking forward to working with you.”
Gardner will succeed Tim Whittie, a former Harford County public works director, who led the city DPW from January 2016 until his departure in early August for a job with the G.W. Stephens Jr. and Associates Inc. engineering firm.
“Obviously, we have some big shoes to fill with Mr. Whittie no longer being with us, and I think we might have found someone that could come close to filling them,” Councilman Jason Robertson said.
The mayor said Whittie “did a phenomenal job for the city, and he set the bar so high.”
“We had a lot of applicants, and it was a competitive process,” Martin said Wednesday. “Ms. Gardner stood above all the others with her resume and with her interviews.”
The mayor said the most important minimum requirement was that applicants possess a PE, or professional engineer, license. He said Whittie has a PE license, “which really helps the organization,” in that the director can complete design work in-house so the city does not have to hire a design contractor for various projects.
Gardner said she has had her PE license since the early 1990s.
She will lead a department of 55 employees — the largest department of a city workforce of 122 full-time employees — who are responsible for operating the municipal water and wastewater treatment plants, water delivery service, street maintenance, handling street closures, trash removal and park maintenance during city events, landscaping, general park maintenance as well as the city’s marina, according to Martin.
“It’s a broad spectrum of services that fall under the Department of Public Works,” Martin said.