Keeping major city projects on track tops the list of priorities for new Del Rio Public Works Director and City Engineer Craig L. Cook.
Cook was hired by the city in mid-July and has hit the ground running.
“I have the code compliance group, planning, engineering, which is really managing the city’s capital improvement plan projects, community health services, which includes the folks who inspect the restaurants, do the bug spraying and animal control. I also have refuse and recycling,” Cook said in a recent interview.
Cook grew up in Wichita, Kan., and holds a bachelor of science in architectural engineering from Kansas State University.
“I consider myself from Houston now. My wife was born and raised there, and it’s been our home twice in our 38 years, most recently for the past 14 or 15 years,” he said.
Cook recently retired after working for 29 years with Kellogg, Brown & Root, Inc. (KBR) and Associates, a Houston-based engineering firm.
“I had way too many jobs to list with KBR, but most recently, I was in several overseas assignments, running projects in Djibouti, in East Africa, where I was the deputy program general manager for a project that basically runs the (U.S.) naval base there, and the function of project manager and deputy project manager is much like that of a city manager because you generate the power, you make the water, you treat the wastewater, you do the trash, maintain buildings and vehicles,” Cook said.
His most recent assignment with KBR was program general manager for Diego Garcia Base Operating Support Services, located in the Indian Ocean, essentially doing much of the same work as he had helped do in Africa.
“In between, I went to Romania and was on the senior staff of a $200 million construction project for the Army Corps of Engineers, building an AEGIS radar site for the U.S. Navy to shoot down missiles from the east headed west,” he said.
Cook said he decided to apply for Del Rio’s public works director position because the work was very similar to that which he had done running the base operating support services contracts for KBR.
“It’s also great to be in the same time zone as my wife, as I’m used to being halfway across the world,” he joked.
Cook said he most enjoys the construction aspects of engineering.
“I’ve been an engineer since 1981, and I view myself as a construction guy. I can manage service contracts and service functions, but I’m really a construction guy, so the piece of managing Del Rio’s capital improvement plan program was most appealing to me about this job,” he said.
Cook said he was in the U.S. Navy before going to work for KBR and did construction there as well.
“It’s nice to be able to say, ‘I built that building,’ or ‘I did that design,’ so that’s what I find most rewarding,” he said.
Cook said he has a list of priorities for Del Rio’s public works department.
“We have a pretty long list of capital improvement projects that, quite frankly, haven’t really progressed much or have progressed in fits and starts, so that’s really the first bit of my attention, is to get them back on track, and that means various things, depending on the project,” he said.
“Secondarily, my priorities are leading the team, being as efficient as we can given the rules and policies and procedures,” he added.
Some of the projects Cook will wade into are the Hunter Subdivision, the reconstruction of Alderete Lane, various projects at the city landfill and the “Field of Our Dreams” city sports park.
Cook is also an attorney, having earned his doctor of jurisprudence degree from South Texas College of Law.
“I started law school when I turned 50, so I haven’t been a lawyer long, but I find it useful, because it taught me how to clear my mind and be analytical and make an argument. It has increased my contract management skill,” he said.
Cook said he is happy to be in Del Rio.
“I like Del Rio. We’ve lived in some small towns, small areas. I’ve lived in Africa twice now, and I grew up in Kansas, and even though I lived in Wichita, which is a fairly large city, all of my buddies grew up on farms, drove trucks, so I’m familiar with the rural lifestyle. I like it here. It suits me,” he said.