Indian-American engineer Karun Sreerama has been named to head Houston’s Department of Public Works and Engineering by the city’s Mayor Sylvester Turner.
If confirmed, the 53-year-old Hyderabad native would start work from April 3 and would become the city’s first Asian department director in the process, reported the Houston Chronicle newspaper on Friday.
Sreerama would replace retiring director Dale Rudick as chief of Houston’s $2 billion and 4,000-plus employees operation. He said that the organisation, which for decades has been viewed as “rigid” and “allergic to feedback”, must improve its outreach and develop a “servant” mentality.
“That means always notifying residents before a work crew shows up on their street,” he said.
“It means asking businesses affected by a road project whether most of their customers come during the day or at night, and scheduling road closures accordingly.”
Sreerama said he plans to meet in short order with all public works staff about his vision for the department as part of a broader, communications-driven plan for his first 100 days.
“We can be more inclusive of the people who are actually going to use public works’ products and treat them as customers, treat them as the people that we work for,” Sreerama said.
“We can’t sit there as engineers and plan things and then give it to them. We need to talk to them, ask them what their ideas are. I’ll never start an answer with, ‘You don’t understand.’ We are a service organisation.”