By JENNIFER MEIER
Involvement with array of projects, some just beginning, others almost completed, communicating with the public, talking and planning with engineers, other government officials and consultants, as well as working through day-to-day issues keeps Middlebury Town Manager Mark Salee happy with his job.
“I don’t think I’d like having the same task to do day after day,” said Salee, who has been town manager since the fall of 2008. “The most important thing for me is having different types of projects and issues to deal with — and there’s plenty to deal with here!”
The town of Middlebury has five departments — police, parks, wastewater, water and public works.
“At any one time I am working on a number of things,” Salee said. “Right now, we’re working on and have been working on since I was on the Parks Board, getting the Pumpkinvine Trail completed through the town. For that I work with consultants, engineers, the parks board and the park manager.”
At the same time Salee and the town are in the process of bidding out and starting a construction upgrade for the wastewater treatment plant.
“On the water side, we have a brand new water plant that was put on line just months after I started so I was involved with completing and closing the project with the department and the water superintendent,” Salee said. “And now we are looking at a new meter reading system and new meters.”
Street projects such as paving, leaf pickup, trash collection are all areas that Salee is involved in at different times and different ways.
“Then there’s the day-to-day issues — responding to complaints, dealing with building maintenance, talking to the public and communication with businesses to make sure everything is going OK,” Salee said.
Along with most Middlebury residents, Salee is most looking forward to the completion of the Pumpkinvine Trail through town.
“This time next year, after about 20 years, I think, the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail will finally be completed,” Salee said. “Our section in town from the tunnel under U.S. 20 into town going north and hooking up to the section at Wayne Street should be finished. And there’s a small but very important section from York Drive by the American Legion to behind the Dairy Queen that will be completed also.”
That section of the trail will cross Ind. 13 at the York Drive streetlight. That work will be done in conjunction with a state paving project.
“The state is repaving State Road 13 from State Road 4 to Yoder Drive north of town,” Salee said. “The trail portion along State Road 13 will be part of the project. So the town’s going to be torn up quite a bit next year.”
Another project beginning soon will raise two of the town’s water towers to improve water pressure going to the north.
“That’s going to be rather interesting,” Salee said. “It won’t be a long project because you can’t keep water towers out of service or not connected for very long! They use very large equipment, pick it up and insert a tube of 35 feet and set it back down. It’s quite an undertaking.”
Adequate water pressure, Salee said, will open up new avenues for potential expansion to the north of town.
When not wrapped up in the goings on of Middlebury, Salee enjoys renovating a cottage he and his wife Susan own.
“I like to do a lot of the work myself,” he said. “We live on a lake and I like being on the water — on a boat, on a kayak, canoe, floating. I also enjoy fishing. I love watching all sports. I used to play, but at my age that’s becoming a little more difficult.”
The family also enjoys snow skiing, hiking, camping and traveling.
Salee has a master’s of science degree in environmental science from Indiana University and has worked at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington D.C., in Madison, Wis., with the Department of Public Health, and in Elkhart with the County Health Department and in the Public Works Department with the city of Elkhart.
He met his wife Susan at Indiana University.
“We went to high school together in Elkhart and I played baseball with her brother, but I really never met her until college,” Salee said.
Salee and his wife have two children, 22-year-old Jane who lives in Colorado and 19-year-old Joey, a sophomore at Indiana University studying Spanish education.
After moving back to Elkhart in 1994 to be closer to family, Salee was talked into being on the Middlebury Parks Board.
“I was on the parks board for a few years and eventually became president of that board,” Salee said. “So I became active in the local government through that position. I worked quite a bit with Lowell Miller who was town manager at that time and got to know him pretty well.”
When Miller was nearing retirement, he let Salee know the position was going to be open.
“My first reaction was, ‘Why would I want to do that?’” Salee said. As time wore on I thought it could be an interesting new challenge. I’ve been here ever since and I think it’s worked out pretty well.”