Chris Carrier, the City of Wichita Public Works & Utilities Director, a career public servant and a familiar face and quick quote at City Hall, died on Sunday. The cause of his death is unknown at this time but Carrier was on his motorcycle when it crashed about 2:40 p.m. in the Riverside area.
"Yesterday, we all lost a friend and dedicated public servant in Chris Carrier," City Manager Robert Layton said. "Simply put, Chris made a difference - to his community, colleagues and friends. His positive approach to life and constant smile will never be forgotten by any of us who knew him. Chris loved Wichita and tried every day to make it a better place for all of us to live. "
Carrier, 62, began working for the City in 1997 as the stormwater utility engineer and was appointed the Director of Public Works in January 2005. He oversaw major projects that reduced flooding across the city, facilitated suburban growth and improved traffic in a city recognized for some of the nation's best commute times.
Those projects included the award-wining Central Rail Corridor, improvements to the Keeper of the Plains, prevention and recovery related to the 1998 Cowskin Creek Halloween flood and continued expansion of Kellogg Expressway. The $105 million Central Rail project raised two miles of track above the roadway in the city's core area, providing five new bridges that carry trains over five arterial streets. The improvements allowed traffic to pass freely below the tracks, improved motorists and pedestrian safety and reduced vehicle emissions.
Carrier was a regular face and voice in media coverage of City Hall, partly because he was often available to journalists and ran one of City government's largest departments. Layton selected him to lead a larger public works operation in March, when the Public Works and Water Utilities Departments merged to become Public Works & Utilities. Carrier welcomed the growing responsibilities.
“He greeted every task as a challenge and not a burden,” Layton said.
As head of the merged departments, Carrier was responsible for 10 divisions, 840 employees and a $41 million budget. Public Works handles various public improvement and cleanup projects including street maintenance, snow and ice removal, storm cleanup, engineering and drainage system maintenance and flood-control projects.
"Chris led by example,” Joe Pajor, the Assistant Director of Public Works & Utilities, said. “He was creative and determined in his work to address many of the most challenging issues facing our community. He always brought out the best in others and challenged them to figure a way through difficult issues and projects."
A native of Newton, Carrier was a public servant in several cities. He was Public Works Director and City Engineer for Dodge City; Director of Public Works for Ford County; City Engineer and Superintendent of Streets and Drainage for the City of Shreveport, La.; City Engineer for the City of Newton, Assistant County Engineer for Polk County and the Water Resources Engineer/Supervisor of Regulation Section for Iowa Natural Resources Council. He also worked in the private sector as Vice President and Division Manager for D.C. Construction Corporation of Louisiana and Project Engineer for Snyder & Associates, Consulting Engineers. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in Civil Engineering from the University of Kansas. He was married to Sandra and has two adult children.
Decisions regarding management of the department will come later.
Chris Carrier’s Career Highlights with City of Wichita
- Drainage improvements to the Cowskin Creek from Kellogg to Maple reduced flooding for west Wichita
- Obtained funding through the Army Corps of Engineers for Cowskin Creek
- The Cadillac Lake pump station and detention basins allowed continued economic development along North Maize Road while providing additional flood control protection to the Chadsworth subdivision and neighborhoods along West Link Ditch
- Storm Water design standards – implementation of the City’s first storm water pollution prevention ordinance, and recently updated the ordinance to include the development of a County-wide storm water manual to promote uniform regulations throughout the Wichita area
- Central Rail Corridor - $105 million dollar project to elevate rail lines through the heart of the city to eliminate traffic congestion and improve safety
- Flood Prevention and Recovery - including the Halloween flood of 1998 and flood event of September 2008
- Kellogg Freeway - construction of the Kellogg and Rock Road flyover, and planning for future phases of both east and west Kellogg
- Combining Public Works and Water Utilities into the new Department of Public Works & Utilities
- Keeper of the Plains Plaza area improvements
- Improvements in the City’s Fleet Maintenance division
- Maintain existing streets, bridges, and buildings in safe and effective condition