When Austin Calaman joined the Lewes Board of Public Works as Deputy Managing Director in June 2016, he had very little experience in the utilities industry. But in the first few months of the job he immersed himself, spending a week in the field in each department, learning all he could.
Over the next five years he built on that and established himself as the logical successor to former general manager Darrin Gordon.
BPW directors voted unanimously on August 4 to make Calaman the new CEO. The directors did their due diligence, hiring an outside company to post the job posting and gather a list of qualified candidates. BPW directors narrowed the list down to Calaman and one other person, then had in-person interviews on August 4.
Calaman ticked all the boxes.
âAustin has all the qualities we need,â said BPW vice president A. Thomas Owen. âAnd if he doesn’t, he has the ability to grow there. He now has the basic knowledge of the Public Works Commission, so he does not have to inquire about most of our activities. And he has the capacity to grow because we’ve seen him grow in this position, and he’s done a great job.
When BPW directors had interviews for the deputy managing director position five years ago, BPW chairman D. Preston Lee said Calaman’s resume didn’t stand out, only a letter a particular recommendation from one of his teachers had resonated.
âIt wasn’t your normal ‘he’s a good man,’â Lee said. âIt was enthusiastic and we were basically saying if we didn’t pick this guy we would be making a mistake. When we interviewed him on the phone, again, his questions and answers were excellent.
This led to an in-person interview in which Calaman was selected over another more experienced candidate.
âAustin just stood out,â Lee said.
Calaman attended York College, where he obtained a degree in Supply Chain Operations Management. It is true that he did not know much about public services when he applied for and accepted the post of Deputy Director General.
âWhen I arrived I had a big picture of everything and saw where we could be more efficient,â he said.
The time he spent in each department early on was incredibly valuable, he said.
âIt gave me a good idea of ââhow operations are run, where we could improve, likes and dislikes; that was the starting point, âhe said.
Over time he took on new tasks and his responsibilities increased as he worked hand in hand with Gordon. When Gordon announced his departure two months ago, Calaman stepped in to ensure a smooth transition.
âWe’ve had long evenings, long days to prepare,â Calaman said.
BPW Director Earl Webb said Calaman’s relationships with staff and others in Lewes have been impressive.
âI haven’t been on the board for that long, but the growth I’ve seen [him] make is really impressive, and I think [he] will continue to grow and do better every day of the week, âhe said.
New BPW director Richard Nichols agreed with his colleagues.
âI believe the enthusiasm, energy and continuity it provides will benefit BPW for many years to come,â he said.
BPW director Tom Panetta said Calaman has helped the board get through some of the tough times, such as the wastewater treatment plant failure, and has stepped up its contribution to many other projects.
âI saw Austin grab the handles and get involved,â he said. âThe amount he was able to learn and contribute is testament to his abilities. “
One of Calaman’s goals as CEO is to ensure that the relationship between BPW and the city continues to evolve in a positive direction. He would also like to strengthen the BPW / taxpayer relationship, including improving transparency, as well as taxpayer education and awareness.
Calaman married his wife Shelby in September and the couple now live in Ocean View.