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Murray Journal

Murray City appoints new public works director

Sep 04, 2022 10:40AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Having started his career painting the lines on Murray City roads 35 years ago, Russ Kakala has risen in the ranks to be appointed the city’s new public works director. Kakala replaces Danny Astill, who retired in June. The Murray City Council unanimously approved Mayor Brett Hales’ appointment at the July 19 council meeting.

After being sworn in, Kakala told the council, “This ain’t my favorite thing to do is get up here and speak or dress up; it’s just not something I like to do. But for this, I felt it appropriate to actually put a tie on, so I just want to say thanks from the bottom of my heart, and I will strive for greatness.”

Born and raised in Kearns, Utah, Kakala has held numerous positions, which include Maintenance Worker, Heavy Equipment Operator, Storm Water Lead Worker, Storm Water Supervisor, and most recently, Streets and Storm Water Superintendent.

“I was about to retire, but now I think I’ll stick around for a while and try to do the best job I possibly can for the council, mayor, staff, and people that are here today that support me,” Kakala told the council.

“It’s been really cool for me to witness over the past seven months our department heads and supervisors. The love that they have for every single one of their employees, and I mean you just see it, they just love their employees, and Russ is no exception. I’ve realized that he loves and appreciates all his employees and for all they do, and he loves and appreciates our citizens,” Mayor Hales said.

Kakala has worked with the Public Works Water, Sewer, Fleet, and Engineering divisions. Over the past 12 years, streets, stormwater, and solid waste have been his focus. In his three decades, his projects have included everything from roadway reconstructions, preventive maintenance, pipeline repair, new construction and maintenance.

“My plan is to continue to be an advocate for the residents, business owners, and especially our employees, who are the backbone of Murray City. I feel involvement and participation are key and that you can’t lead from behind a desk,” Kakala said.

In 2006, Kakala was involved with the formation of the stormwater department for the city. As a result, Kakala collected all the storm drain data that is now used in the city’s GIS maps. 

“Sidewalks are huge for him,” Hales said. “Russ always followed through. If it wasn’t possible, he explained why, but Russ tries to make that possible.”

According to Kakala, his family has been his most significant influence. He cites his wife’s support, and his son Colton works in the Public Works Department.

“My brother Mitch has been a great mentor to me my whole life. He has always been there to offer his experience and guidance and has taught me a lot,” Kakala said.

Kakala will have oversight of the divisions that make up the Public Works Department: Streets, Stormwater, Water, Sewer, Solid Waste (garbage collection), and Fleet Services. Kakala will have to address how these divisions handle the new mixed-use developments planned for Murray.

“I can’t do anything without the group of people that I work with. They are truly the best people I’ve ever been around. We’ve worked a lot of years together and have great friendships. All I have to do is ask any of these guys, and whatever it is, it’s done,” Kakala said.

When not in the office, Kakala can’t put away his constructive instincts and loves to help others with their projects. However, he will try to escape with family and friends to camp, hunt or ride horses.