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Service authority names new executive director

Former Halifax County Service Authority Director of Operations Mark S. Estes has been named Halifax County Service Authority executive director.

HCSA Board Chairman Dexter Gilliam made the announcement late Tuesday evening.

Effective July 1, Estes will replace outgoing Service Authority Executive Director Willie Jones who will retire June 30. 

In commenting on Estes’ appointment, Gilliam said, “Mark is a lifelong resident of this community who has successfully held a number of positions with the Town of South Boston and most recently as the director of operations for the authority. 

“Mark has performed his current duties in an exemplary manner, and the board has the utmost confidence in his ability to lead the authority as its next executive director. 

“At the same time the board wishes to congratulate Willie on his pending retirement and thank him for his outstanding leadership as executive director since the inception of the authority,” Gilliam added.

Estes was born and reared in South Boston, a place he continues to call home.

He is a 1978 graduate of Halifax County High School and received a two-year degree in machinery technology from Danville Community College. He attended business and accounting classes at Piedmont Technical.

According to Estes, most of his experience has come from past jobs, working with various organizations and through certificates and accreditations.

 Estes has been working for local government for 28 years.  In 1984 he started his career in local government as a utilities systems engineer for the Town of South Boston, a position he held for 13 years. 

Following his stint as a utilities engineer, he became the town’s building code and fire official for five years until he was named  utilities director.

At the inception of the authority in 2007, Estes was named director of operations. 

For the past three years, Estes has served as the president of the Rural Water Association.

With many years of experience under his belt and having spent a lot of time working with Jones, Estes said he feels taking on the executive director’s job comes “natural.”

“I’ve always liked challenges. I feel like now I have developed the skills that I feel I need for that job, and I worked closely with Willie Jones over the past five years. We’ve collaborated on a lot of the projects, a lot of the issues and a lot of the new policy development, and I feel like this was the next logical progression,” Estes said.

He plans to move forward with the authority’s master plan and continue to work on the entire project while keeping water rates affordable.

“We have a master plan that we go by. It’s a living document that spells out how we can make efficiencies and what future development we think will develop itself out. We’ve been going by that document all along. We’ve got three or four projects underway now. We’ve got the wastewater expansion, we’ve got the water plant, a waste project that’s just starting to get underway. We’ve started the bidding process on that already,” Estes said. 

“The ideal solution is to keep the water rates as low as possible but still get the work done that needs to be done to these systems. These systems are what we inherited, and we are still trying to bring them up to speed in the most economical way we can do it.”

Estes continued explaining the job that lies ahead of him saying, “Whether that’s borrowing, whether that’s grant money or whether that’s trying to do some of the work ourselves, we’ve got some challenges ahead. We need new industry in here to bring more water usage up to keep rates where they need to be. 

“We’ve got a lot of line work to do. We’ve got some more water tank work we’ve got to focus in on, but we’ve got a lot of projects we’ve already laid out for the next few years,” he added.

 Estes said because he is a product of this area, he is aware of the economy and what people can afford.

“I grew up in South Boston. I think I have a unique perspective of the economy, the people, their expectations and also perhaps the limitations on what people can afford,” Estes said. 

“The challenge is going to be keeping water and wasterwater services affordable during the coming years with all the work that we have to do. People know me. I’m a lifetime member in the fire department, so people have seen me around for a long time, and hopefully I can bring some of those relationships and some of those experiences to this position and ultimately provide better customer service.”

 Estes said his love for giving back to the community is what has kept him working in local government for so long.

“I started off being a volunteer firefighter, and I’ve always loved public service. I was a scoutmaster for years and just loved giving back to the community where I grew up.  With this authority, with this town, that’s what I love to do, work with people, work for the people, and I don’t think there’s anymore gratification in the work-related field than doing something that you love to do and feeling that you’re helping the community at the same time,” Estes said.

 He said the challenges and the people are what he likes most about working at the authority.

“I enjoy finding issues that need to be addressed and finding a fix for them, finding a way to litigate those issues.  I guess probably most what I enjoy are the people I work with and the customers. We have an extended customer base. We have a lot of people in the area now.

“It’s not how it used to be 20 something years ago,” he added.

Many new residents have moved into Halifax County, and many of them are senior citizens, Estes said.

“Being able to sit and talk with those people and explain what’s going and why we have to do it, to me I enjoy doing that,” he added.

Estes said he is looking forward to working with staff to continue the projects already underway.

“I think everyone wants to leave a legacy on what they were able to accomplish,” Estes said. 

He plans to continue moving the service authority into a direction where it can maintain quality service for its customers by maintaining affordable rates and a good work environment.

And the new executive director hopes these efforts will help the service authority become a catalyst for bringing new industry into the area that in turn will result in new jobs and future economic growth.