Getting To Know Saline’s New City Engineer

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Saline’s brand new city engineer has only been on the job for a little more than a month. But Tesha Humphriss has lived in Saline for well over two decades and told this newspaper that she is excited to begin her new role in her longtime hometown.

The following interview was conducted over the phone. It has been edited for length and clarity.

The Sun Times
News: Could you explain your new role?

Tesha Humphriss: “I am now the City of Saline’s engineer. The previous engineer was here for about 18 years. …

Right now, I’m evaluating the City’s infrastructure. I am excited to work on the engineering side of it … My job description is lengthy.

Infrastructure for the city not only includes not only the water distribution and collection system, which has grown, and the wastewater treatment plant. We’re not necessarily small town [because] we have grown so much in the last 20 years. Our infrastructure is now more mid-level because we have the wastewater treatment plant, wastewater collection, water distribution, pump stations, the storm sewer system, streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, bridges, and the dam.

That is all of the infrastructure that falls under the engineer’s department, but I of course have help in administrating that. One person could not maintain all of those things. Rather it be new development and how it impacts infrastructure, ongoing maintenance of infrastructure, management of infrastructure and obviously capital improvement planning is a big part of that also.”

TSTN: Could you walk us through your background and experience?

Humphriss: “My husband I bought our house out here in 2002, before we had kids. We stayed here because we really like the community.

Out of college, I worked as a consultant for 10 years. I graduated [Michigan State University] with a degree in civil engineering in 1999. While I was in consulting, I dabbled in the environmental side, but I found that I really like the municipal side of things. I really like the collection of distribution, systems – the water distribution system, the sanitary collection system, the hydraulics. The math in these systems are easy to predict than stormwater or environmental systems.

I worked for municipalities as my clients. I eventually moved to working for a municipality in Livingston County from 2008 to 2018, while I was living here. … I worked for a utility department. … I ultimately left that job in 2018 to work for the City of Ann Arbor. I worked in their capital plants from 2018 to 2020. Then Covid hit and I’ve been home with my kids.

Now I’m back here at the City of Saline. I just could not pass up the opportunity to do what I was doing in Livingston County … at my hometown. I’m really excited to work here.”

TSTN: Why did you choose Saline, both to live in and then to work in?

Humphriss: “What I like about Saline is that it is a small town that is near Ann Arbor. There are a lot of resources in Ann Arbor, but we didn’t want to live there. ….

The thing my husband and I love about living here are the parks. … We live on the south side of town and can use parks to make our way all the way up to Mill Pond with very little walking on streets. The services that come with a small city means our roads get plowed in a timely fashion. We like the curbside recycling, all of the services that come with the City of Saline is why we have always enjoyed living here.

That is why I have an interested in the infrastructure. Working right in my hometown, now, and learning infrastructure is something that I’m definitely excited about.”

TSTN: What are the biggest challenges that Saline is facing and how are you planning on addressing them?

Humphriss said in an email that “As I said in Monday nights meeting, I believe the current discoloration in the water is related to the aging infrastructure, and it is the most pressing issue on my radar right now. I realize how difficult it is for residents to experience inconsistencies in water quality, and we are working towards both short term and long term corrective actions.”

Humphriss said by phone: “I think in general, the public think about the streets and don’t think about what is under the streets. … What’s below the ground hasn’t had priority and the result of not doing that maintenance has been … older pipes failing and there has been a lot of need for approval on that. Most people don’t think about water, but it sure is a hassle once you don’t have water.

I’m glad to see as a general society, we’re thinking more and putting money towards sewer pipe distribution systems. I think that’s our biggest challenge right now.

I think the biggest problem for Saline is that we were growing while we lost money because of the [2008] recession. And so the Department of Public Works has been understaffed, while trying to keep up with the growth.

What I’m excited about coming here is that I see a focus on conducting the proper asset management and inventory maintenance to make the system function long term. I think we’ll get our arms around the new development and … know what areas need improvement and put those dollars towards improving our system. That’s where I can benefit, because I have a lot of history in that particular area.

The City is also aware of the expansion of the wastewater treatment system. That is a significant project that is on the horizon. That is obviously a critical need.”

Image Credit: Tesha Humphriss

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