Portsmouth Public Works Director Wins National Award

By AnnMarie French

Steven F. Parkinson has led the City of Portsmouth’s Public Works Department for nearly two decades, through a multitude of construction projects and countless New England snowstorms. This past May, the American Public Works Association (APWA) honored Steve for his distinguished accomplishments by naming him a 2008 Top Ten Public Works Leader of the Year. The APWA’s annual program honors exemplary public works professionals from across the U.S. and Canada for their dedication, leadership and expertise.

For the past 27 years, the City of Portsmouth has benefited tremendously from the work of Steve Parkinson. “Regardless of the issue, Steve has never failed to get the job done in the finest tradition of public service," said City Attorney Robert P. Sullivan in a letter supporting Steve’s nomination for the award.

Steve served the Portsmouth Public Works Department as City Engineer from 1981 to 1989, when he was promoted to Public Works Director, a position he continues to hold today. He is credited with substantially expanding the city’s capital improvement program (CIP) and for successfully advocating for the funding to keep important projects in the pipeline.

He is responsible for 140 miles of roads and bridges and 75 miles of sidewalk, and is lauded for his comprehensive road management program. The city has continued to fund road maintenance at $1 million a year, along with another $250,000 for the construction and maintenance of sidewalks. “The council recognizes that nice streets and nice sidewalks have an economic impact," said Steve, noting that the council also appreciates the things they don’t see.

Steve is responsible for the daily operations and maintenance of the city’s entire wastewater collection, conveyance and treatment facilities. Portsmouth has some of the oldest public infrastructure in the state, including 1800s-era brick and stone pipe still in use in sections of the downtown historic area. Under Steve’s direction, the city is upgrading infrastructure as part of a strategically coordinated plan that began at the outer reaches of the city and is steadily moving toward the older areas.

Among his many noteworthy accomplishments, Steve was instrumental in the construction of the new Portsmouth Public Library, which opened in 2007 after nearly 30 years of local debate. The building is the first municipal facility in New Hampshire to attain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The project required demolition of the existing armory building to make way for the new library, and nearly 98 percent of the materials were recycled in one way or another, such as in the reuse of the armory’s historic slate roof tiles on a portion of the library roof. Portsmouth plans to apply for LEED certification for two upcoming construction projects, the new fire station and wastewater treatment facility. Currently in the design phase, the wastewater treatment facility will incorporate orientation with the sun and wind for maximum energy efficiency.

“We’ve become a very sustainable community in the last few years," notes Steve. In fact, recycling is mandatory in Portsmouth, and fines are imposed on residents who fail to comply after repeated warnings. With approximately 7000 stops, the public works crew keeps a watchful eye on the bags and buckets waiting at the curb, educational materials at the ready. With use of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) on the rise, the city has begun to educate residents on the proper handling and disposal of the mercury-containing bulbs.

Steve has a long list of projects before him: traffic calming projects, various construction projects and whatever new challenges may come along. But we hope he’ll also take the time to bask in the glory of this well-deserved award. Congratulations, Steve!

AnnMarie French is a Communications Specialist with the New Hampshire Local Government Center.

Article Topics: