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In more than six years as Assistant City Manager, John Baker saw some of Garland’s most vital departments through some of the City’s biggest challenges.
An engineer by trade, Baker wound up making sure water flowed to homes after natural disasters and overseeing departments tasked to respond to a pandemic. He managed a redoubled effort to renew aging streets and played a key role in molding the largest-ever bond package to ensure the City’s future infrastructure.
“I got to work on incredible projects. I’m not pigeon-holed into roads or pipes. I got to do all of it,” said Baker, who is retiring from the City in August following a 37 1/2-year career.
Baker rose to senior project engineer in 1996, then quickly became director of engineering. He was also the City’s municipal services director before becoming a managing director in 2009 and Assistant City Manager in May 2015. He oversaw departments including Animal Services, Engineering, Facilities, Health, Landfill, Sanitation, Streets, Transportation, Wastewater and Water.
“In engineering, you have to work with such a broad range of departments and abilities. Before you realize it, you’ve been here so long that everybody knows you,” he said. Still, Baker said, he was blindsided when he was promoted to Assistant City Manager in 2015.
It was one of the first moves Bryan Bradford made upon becoming City Manager that year. “I understood I had to have great people in administration if I was going to have any chance of success,” Bradford said.
Baker’s history with the many departments made him the perfect staff point person when the City put its largest-ever bond package together, getting voters’ approval in 2019. While infrastructure elements were key in the $423.7 million package, Baker credits a resident committee and the City Council for “going to bat for quality of life.”
Baker said he was awed when workers from virtually every department stepped into unfamiliar roles to serve residents in more than a dozen mass vaccination events this year. Other challenges included an EF4 tornado in December 2015, an EF2 tornado in October 2019 and the statewide freeze last February.
“That tests your organization’s mettle in a different way,” he said. “That’s when you see people going the extra mile and relying on one another. The leadership of our team here really rose up.”
Baker also praised the support from his wife, Leanne, and their children, John, Taylor and Nicole. And he said he’s looking forward to spending more time with all of them in retirement.