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BLOOMFIELD'S MUNICIPAL OPERATIONS CENTER

 

October 13, 2017

Dorothy Nobis

Ray Sterling, Superintendent of Bloomfield Municipal Operations Center

Ray Sterling sat in his office at the Bloomfield Municipal Operations Center, but it was obvious he doesn't spend much time there.

Clean, tidy, with no empty coffee cups or piles of papers stacked up on his desk, Sterling's office speaks of organization and attention to detail, which earned him the title of superintendent of the department in February. Sterling has been with the City of Bloomfield for about a year and nine months, and was promoted to superintendent after serving the city as an Operator 1.

Sterling supervises nine employees, all of whom Sterling considers part of his family.

"The key to keeping employees is keeping them happy," Sterling said. "You have to relate to them and you can't live above them. I put myself in their shoes and I want to treat them like I want to be treated."

Sterling said leading with compassion and knowledge, and offering encouragement to each employee brings a sense of loyalty and teamwork with employees.

"If you don't have happy employees, they won't give you 100 percent and you won't get a good product out of them," Sterling said.

If he had a "wish list," Sterling said his employees would be at the top of it.

"I'd get my people their pay cut back and I'd improve the fleet, have new vehicles throughout the city, new machinery to help people do their jobs, and more help in the shop," Sterling said. The City of Bloomfield was forced to cut wages for all city employees by 3.5 percent in August of 2016 because of decreasing Gross Receipts Taxes (GRT) due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry. City leadership believes it will be another year and a half to two years before that pay cut will be reinstated, based on the current revenues received through the GRT.

The MOC is in charge of maintaining the city streets, sidewalks and rights of way, water distribution lines, wastewater collection lines and manholes, and all city-owned vehicles and heavy equipment. Most people aren't aware of all the MOC staff does.

"They're the unsung heroes of the community," Sterling said of his staff. "They get up at 2 a.m. in the winter to fix a water break and there's a sewer break and they're dealing with that, and it's not pleasant. But we know what we have to do and we enjoy it."

"We're a tightly knit group and my people are the best of the best," he added, proudly.

While most of his crew are men, Sterling's office manager is Kim Duncan, who has been with the City of Bloomfield for almost 39 years, is the sole female in the group.

"Kim is great," Sterling said of his office manager. "She makes birthday cakes on everyone's birthday and she's the 'go to' person here. She knows so much (about the city) and she's been beneficial to me as I've learned my position. Kim's a great asset to the city itself."

"The guys have the utmost respect for her, and when I'm out of town, Kim's in charge and she gets things done!"

Duncan is equally supportive and respectful of her boss.

"Ray is a stand-up guy," Duncan said. "He leads by example, he's honest, he's a good listener and he has a great sense of humor."

Sterling is also calm in what can be a tornado of work that needs to be done, Duncan said.

"Ray has a great attitude and he has a great rapport with his employees," Duncan added. "I've worked for five MOC superintendents over the years, and I put Ray very high on that list."

Melinda Gomez is the director of Bloomfield's Park and Recreation Department and works closely with Sterling.

"Ray has the ability to delegate and communicate effectively," Gomez said. "He is honest and is very committed to his job and his department."

"I've watched Ray interact with his employees and he always has them laughing and he's laughing as well," Gomez added. "I also appreciate the fact that any time the Parks Department needs help, Ray sends a crew to come and assist."

Sterling receives "high fives" from his supervisor as well. While Sterling started with the MOC as an Operator 1, which is an entry level position, his knowledge of utility construction and heavy equipment operation wasn't entry level, said Jason Thomas, Bloomfield Public Works Director/City Engineer.

"Ray had worked his way up in heavy construction and ran a utility construction firm," Thomas explained. "His 15 months as an Operator 1 gave him a working knowledge of MOC. All of these experiences, and the love of his home town, gave him the edge for the superintendent's position. In these tough economic times, Ray has met the challenge of our budget cuts head on. He can often be found in the shop, working on the fleet, or working alongside his crews when they are short-handed."

"Ray's men have developed concrete finishing abilities of the highest quality I have seen in my career in Public Works," Thomas added. "He is a fine example of a good leader and we are privileged to have him as the superintendent."

Sterling grew up in Bloomfield and is a dedicated Bloomfield Bobcat. "I enjoy everybody I work with (in the city)," Sterling said. "A lot of them, I've known for years. It's nice to work with people you grew up with and lived with your whole life."

"Everything I do (at work) is fun – it's all fun," Sterling added. "The challenges are very enjoyable, and I have a good team of people here (at MOC) that works very well together. It's possible to get great things done when we're working together."

 

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