By Amy Wenk
Sandy Springs officials have welcomed Thomas Black as the city’s new director of public works. He was hired by CH2M Hill to replace Angela Parham, who left July 24 to take a position in CH2M Hill’s municipal services office in Sandy Springs.
With his new role, Black is responsible for transportation, planning, traffic services, field services and the stormwater system.
He said he hopes to improve intersections and have a positive impact on Georgia Department of Transportation projects.
“I’m excited about this whole program — about privatizing the services,” said Black, a Gwinnett resident. “I like that. You have a cost consideration on both sides, and you have a tremendous commitment for services from the private company and by the elected officials here. For someone who has been here for three weeks, it looks like it is a well-run organization.”
Black’s experience in development and construction runs the gamut “from pipeline to concrete to asphalt to regular ’ole public works stuff,” he said.
He most recently ran his own company, Land Development, which evaluated raw land for development and was involved with the zoning process, including meeting with neighborhoods and elected officials.
In that capacity, he was a primary contractor for Legacy Investment Group.
Before that, he worked for DeKalb County Public Works for more than 12 years, beginning as land development manager and leaving after seven years as director of public works. He led the $22 million cleanup of Dunwoody after a 1998 tornado devastated the area and “changed lives forever.”
“I had no idea … older, bigger lots have 100 pine trees on them until you come up and see all 100 of them mangled on the ground and through houses,” said Black. “After we removed the timber that could be saved, there was still about a million cubic yards of grindings that had to be taken away.”
For his work after the disaster, the local Rotary club named Black government employee of the year.
With DeKalb, Black also worked closely with Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID) for public works improvements in Dunwoody.
“Some of the major projects that we were pushing have been in the shape that Sandy Springs projects have been in,” Black said. “Like the interchange at Roswell Road has been in the same limbo as the interchange at Ashford-Dunwoody now for many years.
“With the help of the CID, we were able to push through that one contract for the fly-over bridge across I-285. I was instrumental in making that happen.”
Black is originally from Hot Springs, Ark., where he was childhood friends with former President Bill Clinton, who lived four blocks away and attended his school.
Black first came to Atlanta in 1970 after a “tumultuous time” with the U.S. Army, where he served two years with the 5th Special Forces in Vietnam, but returned home to earn a civil engineering degree from the University of Arkansas. He returned to Atlanta in 1976, but the avid duck hunter retains a property in Stuttgart, Ark..
Black and his wife, Sharon, have two daughters and four grandchildren.