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Well-respected public services director Rick Graham, who has served under four Salt Lake City mayors, will be leaving City Hall.
New Mayor Jackie Biskupski has decided not to retain the veteran who oversees parks, snow removal and golf, among other things. He has served as director for 19 years and has been employed by the department for 35 years.
Graham was extolled Monday by City Council members and former Mayor Rocky Anderson as a top-flight professional who managed one of the city's largest departments with efficiency in good economic times and bad.
Council Chairman James Rogers said Graham will be difficult to replace.
"To see Rick Graham leave the city is hard to stomach," Rogers said Monday. "He has devoted his entire professional career to Salt Lake City."
During the recession, when budgets were slashed, Graham made sure the city kept running, Rogers said.
As director of public services his responsibilities also included street repair, open space management, graffiti removal, tree maintenance, refuse disposal and recycling, street sweeping, traffic signs and signals maintenance, special-event planning and parking enforcement.
Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall said she is "sad Rick Graham is leaving" City Hall.
Most residents who come into contact with the city do so through public services, she said.
"He is very skilled at serving our residents," Mendenhall said. "I've emailed him with constituent complaints on Saturdays and holidays and have had the problem quickly addressed more than once."
Graham joins the ranks of other highly skilled officials Biskupski determined not to retain, including former Public Utilities Director Jeff Niermeyer and D.J. Baxter, the executive of the redevelopment agency (RDA).
"There is a large amount of skill we are saying goodbye to right now," Mendenhall said. "I hope to see highly skilled appointees come [to these positions]."
The City Council has the authority to advise and consent, meaning they must approve by a majority vote any candidate appointed by the mayor as a department director.
Anderson, who worked with Graham for eight years before former Mayor Ralph Becker took office, was taken aback by news of Graham's departure, saying he just could not understand replacing the well-respected veteran.
"No one could ever find anybody better than Rick Graham for the job he does," Anderson said. "We will suffer a huge loss with this."
Graham could not be reached for comment Monday.
The mayor's spokesman, Matthew Rojas, said Biskupski is building a team that shares her vision. He added that the mayor thanks Graham for his service to Salt Lake City. Biskupski has yet to name a new public services director.