The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Rieck Leaving Public Works

By Amy Smith, August 1, 2003, News

Public Works Director Peter Rieck is retiring from the city after 18 years, bringing to four the number of top city officials who have announced their departure in recent weeks. Rieck says his decision, formed early this year, was not based on the city's budget crisis or anticipated layoffs, but on the desire to start his own business. "I hope that if I chose to stay I would still be here on October 1," he said. Rieck leaves his position Sept. 30.

Rumors of his resignation had circulated earlier this summer while he was vacationing in his native Germany. The rumors had all but died until In Fact Daily reported otherwise on Tuesday.

Rieck says he'll spend the next four months setting up a business plan for becoming "one of those dreaded developers." He says he'll start small -- designing and building his own house -- and then move on to other projects. He vowed to steer clear of strip malls and big-box retail. "I'd like to do some small-scale mixed-use projects -- things that fit in with the programs that the city is trying to accomplish," he said. "I want to have fun and be creative." Rieck holds a master's in architecture from Penn State, where he was accepted on a Fulbright scholarship. Prior to that he earned the equivalent of a master's in architecture from the Technische Universität in Hanover, Germany. "I'm a frustrated, unlicensed architect," he said.

During his seven-year tenure as director, Rieck has overseen countless projects, including the package of facilities funded in the 1998 bond election that he expects will be completed by 2005. Public Works roadwork projects typically generate angry phone calls and e-mails from the driving set, including "a famed Texas publisher who lives in Austin," but Rieck takes the complaints in stride, saying that the end result is what gives him the most satisfaction.

City Manager Toby Futrell has tapped Sondra Creighton, an assistant director over project management, as acting PW director. Asked in what shape he was leaving his department, Rieck paused a moment. "Like most managers, I'm probably self-delusional and not able to make a fair assessment of my department, so I will leave that job to others rather than myself."

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