By Tony Hooker
For long time Villa Grove resident Marc Mixell, the opportunity to work for the city of Villa Grove after nearly two decades of being on the road in sales was too good to pass up. Now, after three years of working for the public works department, the hyper organized Mixell finds himself in a new role, as director. He recently sat down with me to discuss the move back into management, and many other things.
Have you officially assumed your duties as public works director?
I have, as of last Monday.
Let’s start at the beginning. How long have you worked for the city?
Around 3 years, I think.
You were in an administrative role in some of your previous jobs, right?
I was. After I moved to Villa Grove in 1986, I held a few local jobs as a younger guy and then I went to work for Jim Hawk early on and I was with them for 27 years. I started out in parts and in the garage as a mechanic, and a couple of years in, I got into the sales part of it. Through the years, I moved through the company, and I was the Operations Manager in Champaign, with a full garage, parts and service and parts manager for the Peoria branch.
Would you say that organization is your biggest strength?
It is. I’m very organization oriented. I have to know where everything is and how everything works. <smiles> I hope I can move forward on that and make it strong.
With the sale of the utility, what do you feel like your main focus is going to be?
Our main focus is going to be streets, parks, alleys and trees. Now that water and sewer is gone, I want to accommodate all aspects of what people think and bring it to the council and see if we can’t improve everything. I want to make it seamless and make sure that there is open communication between everyone.
How do you see your role developing with the new rec center?
My assumption is that they’re going to bring in someone to run the day-to-day operation of the building, bringing in different programs and sporting events. The role for public works will be keeping everything, the building, the beautification, the tree planting, road improvements and any new additions at 100% while assisting the new manager with anything that they need.
What do you think your biggest challenges are going to be as we move forward?
I think my biggest challenge is going to be continuing to make everything seamless as we move to the future. Pretty much everything is changing. We’ve got the new rec center. We’ve sold our water and sewer plant. I think the biggest challenge now is going to be moving into the new realm of what’s happening today. Everything’s been done a certain way for so many years, and there’s so much to it as far as updating. There’s a lot to learn, but I’m excited. When I worked for Hawk, the whole state was my territory. I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of contacts, so I was able to see how people run things. When I left, I started working for Johns Farms, close to home and I loved it. Brad’s a great guy and he taught me a lot of good stuff. Then, once I got here there was a lot of changes, right at the beginning but it’s been wonderful. Everyone’s been great, and the crew that we have is amazing. Everyone has great abilities and assets that they bring into what we do and it’s awesome. I just think we’ll keep doing things better and better.
Shifting gears a little bit…you married a Villa Grove girl, right?
I did. I went to school at Mattoon and moved up here and met and married Peggy Huber. We’ve been together for 35 years, married for 25…I mean 26! I want to get that right! <laughs> I’ve got two daughters. Megan teaches sixth grade at Mattoon, and Molly is a junior at Eastern, who is also going to be a teacher. I think Molly is going to teach elementary school.
What are some of your immediate goals as public works director?
We’ve got this new addition going in, so another goal is to get all city property as far as vehicles, equipment, attachments and everything indoors. We want to include a full maintenance and inventory program. We’ve got a big task, a huge task to get that done. This new addition is going to be good. Most of our stuff is going to be in one place now. That’s good for us.
I know that Randy (Lake, the previous PW director) oversaw the switchover when we sold the utility, but was it a smooth transition?
Very smooth. They’re a great group of people. They had a learning curve, too, as far as reading meters and everything. Villa Grove is an old town, so it’s very different from how subdivisions are set up know, but every time they had questions, we had answers. They’ve been really easy to work with. They’ve been doing work all over town. There are things that they can do that we couldn’t, so it’s a huge benefit. Because of the kind of business they are, they have other lines that they can go down, as far as grants and funding. They’re going to have growing pains. There’s new technology that will allow them to figure out the best way to improve or replace our waste treatment plant.
Were your guys fired up about the prospect of a blizzard last month?
We were! Three of us are well trained on snow removal. Johnny Shanks is in training, but everyone was ready to go.
Were you a little disappointed when it didn’t bring as much snow as expected?
We were a little disappointed! <laughs> We got it taken care of pretty quickly without any issues. All the equipment worked great. All the maintenance went great. We got those new salt spreaders last year and we can now do a “one pass” application. We can do the whole town in half the time.
I assume that supplies like salt and diesel are probably continuing to rise?
They are. Everything is rising. One of my strong points is procurement and purchasing, so we’ll be making some changes. Nothing major, but I will look at all of it and streamline everything. The more I can save here, the more I can spend on other projects there.
Are there any major projects coming up?
I’ve only been here a week, I’m not really sure what is in the big plan! <smiles> I think our biggest push forward is going to be Richman Park and what we’re going to do to give the best access to people. How we’re going to run concessions, how we’re going to run the lights. There’s a lot of working together that will be a pretty big hurdle. There are a lot of different things that we’ll have to look at. There’s going to be growth and I personally think the community center is going to bring a lot of people to town and that’s going to be great.