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Spokane Valley’s peaceful atmosphere appeals to new public works director

Eric Guth is the new public works director for the city of Spokane Valley. (Jesse Tinsley)
Eric Guth is the new public works director for the city of Spokane Valley. (Jesse Tinsley)

Spokane Valley Public Works Director Eric Guth has been on duty for two weeks and he’s liking the job more than his last one. In Spokane Valley, he doesn’t have to worry about rocket attacks.

Guth, 50, previously worked for CH2M Hill for more than four years and he spent a year of that working on U.S. Armed Forces construction projects in Afghanistan. He served in two areas during that year. His first was in a more volatile area where his camp went through three or four rocket attacks a week. Toward the end of his year he was in a calmer area that only drew one rocket attack every month or so.

“The work was pretty good,” Guth said. “It wasn’t entirely unsafe.”

He found the job opening in Spokane Valley on a public works job board while he was sitting in his containerized housing unit in Afghanistan. He was considering remaining with CH2M Hill, but he wanted out of Afghanistan. “Mainly I wanted to be near my family,” he said. “This was the most interesting and best opportunity. I like the fact that it’s a newer city.”

Guth said he also likes that Spokane Valley is largely a contract city. While working with CH2M Hill he was the public works services manager for Centennial, Colo., and director of public works for Castle Pines, Colo. Both cities had a contract with CH2M Hill to provide public works services much like Spokane Valley contracts with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for policing services.

Guth holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Florida and another in civil engineering from the University of South Florida.

He started out studying engineering, but decided to switch to geology after he took a class and liked it. But when he graduated he didn’t find any job prospects so he eventually went back to school for his second degree.

He considers the detour to geology a learning experience. “I didn’t really look back,” he said.

He worked for Breckenridge, Colo., for 15 years as assistant town engineer and town engineer. He was director of resort development at the Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico for two years before he joined CH2M Hill. Guth said he wanted a job in the Western U.S. and during the interview process found the city staff to be professional and likable. He also liked that the city was on sound financial footing.

Guth and his wife, Amy, have been married 19 years and have two teenage sons, both of whom attend Gonzaga Prep. He said he would like to stay for as long as he can. “I always go into a job thinking I’m going to retire here,” he said. “I’m not looking for my next opportunity.”