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CCWA Behind the Tap Spotlight: Stormwater Maintenance Manager Marcus McLester

Meet Stormwater Maintenance Manager Marcus McLester. Stormwater can create problems like flooding and sinkholes. Stormwater pipe deteriorates over time and can collapse or cause other problems. Marcus’ primary job duty is overseeing all the Stormwater maintenance activities in unincorporated Clayton County and its six cities. This includes installation/repair/replacement of storm drain pipes and catch basins, cleaning storm drain pipes and catch basins and re-grading ditches on the right-of-way.

Marcus worked in CCWA’s Conveyance (sanitary sewer) Department for many years before moving to the ‘new’ Stormwater Utility program back in 2007. This is when CCWA took over managing stormwater for the Clayton County Government and the cities of Forest Park, Jonesboro, Lake City, Lovejoy, Morrow and Riverdale. “We are a unique Stormwater Utility,” he said. “There are probably only two others like us in the State of Georgia that are part of a water authority. All other Stormwater departments fall under the public works section of cities and counties.”

If you ask Marcus what he likes about his job. He quickly corrects you. “I don’t like my job, “I love my job!” And his passion for what he does shows. He had the unique opportunity to build the maintenance section from the ground up. He sees himself as more than a manager. A great example of this is how he connects with the employees who work for him – all of whom are men. When Marcus celebrated 20 years at CCWA, he spoke about how he wants to help each of them reach their highest potential and be the best men they can be for themselves, their families and the company. He considers this a personal mission.

“I love the work environment we have created in Stormwater,” he said.  Retired General Manager P. Michael Thomas nicknamed the Stormwater Department ‘Happyville’.  Marcus said that nickname was the result of a work environment that is built off teamwork with a family atmosphere.  “As a manager, I couldn’t ask for a better group of employees. Without them, I would not have the success I have here at CCWA. They truly helped me make my vision come true of how a department should be ran,” he added.  “We call it the ‘Stormwater Way’. I appreciate them more than they know.”

Even in ‘Happyville’ you have challenges. The Stormwater Utility does not maintain stormwater infrastructure on state roads that run through Clayton County. To replace any stormwater pipes that run through a homeowner’s yard, they must get permission first. The homeowner must sign a work acknowledgement form to give CCWA access to their property to do the work. With this type of easement, the drainage easement still belongs to the homeowner, not CCWA. It is only when a property owner signs a permanent easement does CCWA acquire the rights to access that portion of their property in the future.  This can be confusing if you have not dealt with many easements. The biggest challenge Marcus faces is getting homeowners to understand CCWA’s Stormwater Level of Service (LOS). CCWA is responsible for all stormwater infrastructure in the right-of-way. Stormwater infrastructure directly connected to the right-of-way can be maintained with the property owner’s permission through a work acknowledgement or permanent easement, and if funding is available to perform the work. Residents often think CCWA is responsible for maintaining ditches in their backyards, creeks, and streams. “It’s hard to get them to understand it’s a private property issue and therefore their responsibility to maintain, not CCWA’s.”

Marcus is a proud U.S. Army veteran. He is also a CCWA Ambassador and one of the strongest supporters of outreach in our community. Whenever Stormwater Maintenance is called on a for a career day event, you can count on them to be there with the big ‘water truck’ or other equipment. You can also find Marcus at our Stormwater Utility’s two annual events – Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day in the spring and Rivers Alive in the fall. Speaking of Collection Day, it is being held Saturday, September 26 after being postponed due to the shelter-in-place back in April. It will be a little different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will take place to give Clayton County residents a chance to properly dispose of items that do not belong in the landfill or local creeks and streams. Marcus will be there with his guy’s taking care of things the way they always do – the ‘Stormwater Way’. #waterprofessionals