Palm Coast - In 1977, Palm Coast was a vast, rural landscape of woods, some houses and a small population. Jimmy Carter was President. Fleetwood Mac's popular album Rumours was released. The first Star Wars movie hit theaters. Cell phones were unknown. And prime-time television was an everyday household event. It was a different time.
Now, Palm Coast is home to nearly 90,000 residents and advances in technology are charting the course for future generations. Schools, businesses and cultural arts groups are collectively working to empower and enhance our community. And throughout all of the major changes there has been one constant here in nearly 43 years - Utilities Director Richard Adams.
"Richard is a man of extremely high character and ethical standards," said Steve Flanagan, Deputy Director of Utility. "He is a man who will roll up his sleeves and do almost anything to make an organization better and has done so for his entire career."
Adams began working for International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) Corporation, Palm Coast's original developer, in 1977 as an Engineering Technician. One of his primary tasks was hydraulic modeling of the water distribution and wastewater collection systems, sizing future pipelines and pumping systems. This became the basis of the City's 30-year utility master plan.
In 1982, he transferred to Palm Coast Utility Corporation, a subsidiary of ITT. He worked as an Engineering Technician while pursuing a bachelor's degree in Business Administration at night. He also held positions including Contract Administrator, Purchasing Manager and Environmental Health and Safety Manager.
In 1999, Florida Water Services Corporation, a multi-system private utility bought Palm Coast Utility. Adams was selected to be the System Manager with overall responsibility for the entire Palm Coast water and sewer systems.
Finally, in 2003, the City of Palm Coast bought the Utility and Dick Kelton, the City Manager at that time, hired Adams as Utility Director. Now, as the second longest-serving employee to have worked for the City in its history, Adams retired Friday, May 1, after serving the citizens and the City of Palm Coast for more than four decades.
"It's been an exciting and rewarding career and I have been very fortunate to have wonderful people to work with and without them, I could not have succeeded," said Adams. "Some of these people I have worked with almost my entire career, some only a short while, but nonetheless, people who I feel are the best in the business and have made me look good."
"Richard Adams holds a wealth of knowledge on all things Utility," said Mayor Milissa Holland. "His forward thinking as a director incorporated the latest technology to ensure the system was stable and could provide the cleanest drinking water possible. His steady, measured and responsible voice was always so reassuring and will be missed, but his legacy and the foundation he has built here will be forever remembered and appreciated."
Adams is known for keeping a low profile, but comes highly regarded. He managed more than 100 employees who monitor more than 500 miles each of water and wastewater pipelines, three water treatment plants and two wastewater treatment facilities. The Utility Department also serves various territories outside the city limits and is responsible for providing high quality, safe drinking water and environmentally responsible wastewater service to the community. Considered a mentor by many of his coworkers and friends, his wealth of knowledge and expertise in problem-solving is admired and revered and will be missed.
"Richard has been the foundation in which Utilities was built on," said Terry Jarvis, Utility Office Manager. "He is well-respected, honest and extremely knowledgeable with all the aspects of the operations of Utilities and beyond."
"Richard's steady leadership has guided us through difficult times of drought, recession, many different types of changes and brought an unprecedented era of cooperation between all positions in the Department," said Pete Roussell, Utility Systems Manager .
As also the longest-serving director for the City, Adams has many accomplishments to celebrate. Under his guidance and direction, Utility workers and facilities have been showered with accolades. The department's national-champion "Water Buoys" team has won more than a dozen knowledge-based Top Ops State Championships. Additionally, several divisions of Utility have received awards for design, safety and the best tasting drinking water. He shares his knowledge several times a year during the city's Citizen's Academy classes. With so much experience under his belt, that earned him the spotlight for one City Council meeting last November when he became the first director in the City's history to sit in for the City Manager in their absence.
"Richard sets the highest standard for honesty, dedication and loyalty," said Brian Matthews, Environmental Compliance Manager. "He lives both his personal and professional life to this standard and expects the same of the people around him."
To recognize his service, City Directors purchased a special glass recognition award to honor his retirement. This moment has been in the works for more than a year. So, with a newfound amount of free time on the horizon, Adams and his wife Lindy are looking forward to traveling, spending time outdoors and seeing their grandchildren.
"Under Richard's direction, the Utility has always over achieved and for this he deserves to be recognized," said Danny Ashburn, Utility Systems Manager. "He can retire knowing he played a big part in where we as managers are today and how much he was appreciated."