Columbia Public Works Director Lowell Patterson will retire after serving 19 years as director of the city’s largest department and presiding over a period of tremendous growth.
City Manager Ray Beck announced Patterson’s retirement on Thursday. Patterson will remain in the position until May 11. He turns 62 this month.
“I respect his decision to retire,” Beck said. “He’s done a great job for us, and I’ve been pleased with the service he’s done for us since he was hired.”
Beck previously served as public works director and hired Patterson as his replacement in 1986. Patterson oversees 320 permanent employees, and his department is responsible for the city’s sewers, streets, trash collection, parking, building regulations, facilities maintenance, building permits, buses and the Columbia Regional Airport.
During Patterson’s tenure with the city, the Public Works Department was one of the first in the United States to become nationally accredited by the American Public Works Association; it was the first department in Missouri to earn this distinction. The association also named him one of the top 10 public works leaders in the country in 1999.
Patterson’s annual salary is $104,480. He manages a $57.5 million budget, the city’s second-highest, and oversees capital improvement projects.
He said he’d been considering retirement for about a year and feels it is time for a change. Patterson recognizes that he has presided over an immense amount of growth but said he would not describe the city as being at a crossroads any more so today than it was a decade ago.
“I think Columbia is a dynamic community,” Patterson said. “It’s a community that constantly challenges itself. I think it will be constantly growing in a manner that satisfies the community.”
Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman said Patterson is extremely dedicated to Columbia and holds one of the most important positions in city government.
“He’s leaving an amazing legacy of public works improvements here in Columbia,” Hindman said.
Patterson said whoever replaces him will take on a challenging yet exciting position and will work with a great staff. He said he doesn’t know whether he’ll take up any new hobbies or travel but looks forward to having more spare time.
“I don’t think I’m at the age where I’ll be ready to go into a rocking chair,” Patterson said, adding that he and his wife will continue to live in Columbia.
Beck said the city’s personnel department will advertise the position nationwide. A committee of city employees will choose Patterson’s successor.