By Steve Robinson | June 29, 2021 - 11:21 am
Posted in Category: News, The Normalite

NORMAL – In 24 years with the Town of Normal, Director of Public Works Wayne Aldrich has had held a few positions, and with each one seemed to be a key player in advancing the Town into the future. All that work, in three positions representing the Town, has left Aldrich little time to relax. But relaxing is exactly what he will do as he will retire at the end of this month.

Folks would look at what he has accomplished and would say his time away is well deserved. He began with the Town in 1997 as Town Engineer. From there, he became Downtown Development Director in 2002 (before the Town rebranded its center to be called Uptown in 2009), and is wrapping up his career with the Town as director of public works, a post he took on in 2014.

“For me, Uptown was an exciting project,” the 61-year-old Aldrich said, explained he was tapped by then-City Manager Mark Peterson to tackle it. He added the direction he believed he received from Normal Town Council members was they were thinking, “go big.”

He said he knew Uptown “was going to be an involved project, and important project, and “that excited me in a way.” He added when it came to such projects, dealing with roads and infrastructure were things he had experience dealing with. That’s because he worked for Illinois Department of Transportation before signing on with the Town.

Among the parts of the project he said he had great familiarity with included buildings, development, and some aspects of construction. “What parts of the project wasn’t familiar with I was willing to learn,” he added.

Aldrich said he worked “with a great team” at City Hall and other departments in Town to accomplish assembling the Uptown that Normal residents are now familiar with. To Aldrich’s thinking, that team began with Normal Town Council members who authorized the project at the beginning, giving their approval and seeking assistance at Federal and State levels to find funds for it. From there, he credited Peterson and Town Staff, as well as consultants the Town worked with for their efforts in making it a reality.

“We had a great team and the project is exceptional in that sense that a city of this size tackled such a project and that it was successful,” Aldrich said.

Normal began benefitting from Aldrich’s skills in 1997, coming from Illinois Department of Transportation where he worked for 14 years, time he spent as a project engineer where his main projects centered around roads and bridges.

As a young man, he said, he did construction work, so IDOT assigned him to numerous construction projects, the bulk of them in the Twin Cities, including Interstate 39. As a design engineer, he helped develop the area around Veteran’s Parkway.

Looking back on his time with Normal, Aldrich said he considers himself “fortunate” his time he spent with the Town gave him opportunities to be involved with diverse projects. From the experiences working for the Town afforded him, Aldrich said, “I just learned about different types of engineering, different types of ways different professions link into development.”

In doing projects for the Town, Aldrich said he learned he was representing project owners, specifically the Town. “I think that’s kind of important because in every aspect, you act as the owner,” he explained. He said representing the Town in that regard is something he said he will miss the most.

Aldrich said another aspect of his work he’ll miss is interacting with area residents and business owners. He explained he recently went through Uptown with coworkers and was stopped by business owners who wanted to chat with him. He said businesses were impacted by disruptions created by the construction during the development phase, but that business owners wanted to chat with him when he came by recently.

Of the projects he was involved with on behalf of the Town, Aldrich said, “We always had a great team, great consultants, and good contractors.”

He said among the more challenging assignments he experienced during the Uptown redevelopment was moving of Commerce Bank and Busey Bank both from temporary to permanent facilities.

One remaining project Aldrich will not get to finish managing because of his exit is the underpass project which, once completed, would help get Amtrak passengers from one trackside to another. It’s a project which began with paying for research on it being approved by Town Council members in June 2017.

Currently, Aldrich said, “That project is in a good state right now. We’ve identified the funding for it. All the agencies are on board with it including the railroad, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Commerce Commission. That’s a project that even if it’s me standing out here and watching it develop, I’d like to be involved with, or just to keep track of because it’s a major project and I had a role to play in the development of it.” That project, he said, is still in the planning phase which includes identifying funding, and finalizing agreements with the railroads that pass through and make stops at Uptown.

At present, Aldrich said, the underpass stands between two phases – planning and final design. He said he will miss not being in on the construction phase. “If funding is in place and the agreements are in place, construction will move pretty quickly,” Aldrich advised.

Reece Notes Aldrich’s Been Responsible For “Major Capital Projects”: Aldrich’s boss, City Manager Pam Reece, was quick to credit him with “coordinating some major, major capital projects over the years.” At one point, demonstrating one of them by stretching her arms to display the building her office sits in on the second floor of Uptown Station, first put to use by the Town in 2012.

Most notable, Reece said, was the position of Uptown Redevelopment Director which meant, in part, coordinating construction of the entire Uptown Station, coordinating placing new water and sewer lines throughout Uptown, and construction of Uptown roundabout.

“Wayne’s been a primary project manager and coordinator of Uptown redevelopment in terms of implementation,” Reece explained. She quickly added that when Aldrich had previous assignments given him by Town administration, such as city engineer, he tackled bridge projects and other infrastructure improvements.

“What makes Wayne so successful at what he does is he’s very sharp,” Reece said, adding, “He builds relationships with folks and he does what he says he’s going to do. He has the skills to manage exceptionally large projects and small projects.”

His work has helped the Town, Reece said bridge relationships with the Town with State and Federal authorities, as well, she added.

As Public Works Director, Reece said, Aldrich has overseen its four divisions – streets, sewer, fleet, and waste removal. “He’s been really pivotal in trying to expand our recycling program, and multi-family recycling,” she added. He’s really had a leadership role in the organization that, I think, has impacted our community in a big way by making sure we’re providing exceptional services, expanded services over the years under his direction, and of course, the outcome of the Uptown Redevelopment project.”

Concerning the Uptown Redevelopment project, Reece added Aldrich sought Federal funding for the project. “He’s known far and wide in the public works industry and the municipal services industry.”

“He’s mentored others, and he’s leaving our organization in a much better place than before he got here,” Reece said.

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