Salt Lake City transportation leader tapped to lead Public Works

Mayor Betsy Hodges has nominated Robin Hutcheson, a transportation leader in Salt Lake City, to succeed Steve Kotke as the new director of the city’s Public Works department.

Kotke retired in May after 27 years with the city.

Hutcheson has served as Transportation Division Director in Salt Lake City since 2012. During her tenure the city has built its first streetcar line and expanded its complete streets program.

The City Council’s Executive Committee approved Hodge’s nomination of Hutcheson Wednesday. The Council’s Transportation & Public Works Committee will hold a public hearing to consider her appointment July 12.

Robin Hutcheson
Robin Hutcheson

City Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) abstained from voting on Hutcheson’s nomination and said she needs to spend more time reviewing her qualifications and plans to meet with her in person.

She expressed some reservations about Hutcheson’s experience, noting she currently supervises 21 employees and would be leading a department of more than 1,000 employees in Minneapolis.

“I’m concerned about the narrowness of her resume with regard to some of the other functions of public works, including water in particular,” Johnson said, noting the city is unique in running a municipal utility with 1 million customers. “This is a huge department. It requires someone with a depth of expertise that I’m not seeing quite yet, but I’m going to keep my mind open.”

Hodges’ noted that the city’s Public Works department is unique in that it combines many divisions that make up individual departments in other cities. To find a candidate with experience managing so many employees, the city would have to recruit candidates with experience leading state departments of transportation, she said.

“She has earned a reputation as a practical innovator who gets things done. She is a sought after commodity,” Hodges said, noting Hutcheson has been recruited by many other places.

Hutcheson said she’s drawn to Minneapolis for “its connection to nature, great neighborhoods, and commitment to people.”

“There are already so many accomplishments to be proud of, and I also see a great opportunity for Public Works to play an essential role moving forward,” she said in a statement. “I’ve loved the time I’ve spent in Minneapolis, and I look forward to making Minneapolis my new home.”

Hodges said she’s confident that Hutcheson is the right person to build on Kotke’s successes.

“Drinking water, storm and sanitary sewers, garbage and recycling — our residents rely on these essential services every day,” she said. “We must keep these services functioning well while also seizing opportunities to address our greatest challenges.”