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Meet Decatur’s deputy city manager

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Meet Decatur’s deputy city manager

City of Decatur Deputy City Manager David Junger. Photo by Dean Hesse stands in the motor maintenance division at the Eloise T. Leveritt Public Works Building on Tally Street. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — David Junger, Decatur’s new deputy city manager, has worked his way up the ranks in the city of Decatur throughout his 33-year career. He began working for the city as a police officer and is now the deputy city manager.

City Manager Andrea Arnold announced the promotion during the April 3 city commission meeting. The plan is for Junger to transition out of public works by the end of the year.

“David represents the highest standards of public service,” Arnold said. “David is committed to ethics and integrity in his service to our organization and to our community. He’s no stranger to our community.”

She added that Junger takes the time to get out in the community, listen to concerns and solve problems.

“We’re fortunate to have his leadership in this new role, and I’m looking forward to the years to come,” Arnold said.

During his last semester at Georgia State University in 1990, Junger came to the Decatur Police Department as an intern and was hired as a police officer in May 1990.

He worked in various roles in the police department for over 15 years, serving as a patrol officer, investigator, sergeant, lieutenant, and the deputy police chief.

He also worked as a park ranger at Stone Mountain Park while in high school. Although Junger said he didn’t necessarily always want to be a police officer, in college, he was interested in joining the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“Lo and behold, I came here [to Decatur] and never left. I enjoyed our job. I enjoyed the community. I enjoyed the special events. Back in the day, Decatur was smaller,” Junger said. “It was a very tight-knit community. The special events were really put on by the city.”

While working for the police department, Junger helped implement new technology.

“As a cop, I got into the IT side and figured out what it was going to take to get mobile computers, write reports in the field, those kinds of things, and learned the court software,” he said. “I learned the police network that we had in the building down there before we had IT.”

In 2005, Junger came over to city hall to help oversee the budget process. During that time, Charles Hammonds announced his retirement as the public works director.

“Charles and I had some conversations about what he thought about me possibly coming to public works,” Junger said. “I’ve always been very engaged with staff from all departments.”

City of Decatur Deputy City Manager David Junger stands next to solar panels installed on the roof of the city of Decatur Eloise T. Leveritt Public Works Building on Tally Street. Photo by Dean Hesse.

After the budget process, Junger came to public works. He worked under Hammonds for about six months. After Hammonds retired in December 2005, Junger became the public works director. Several months later, he was promoted to be the assistant city manager for public works in 2006.

Junger has served in public works for about 17 years.

Shortly after Junger joined public works, the city commission approved the bonds to renovate all the city buildings.

“I was fortunate to be in public works during the time when we renovated every single city building that we own, which was another incredible learning opportunity,” he said. “You see buildings being built, and you never quite appreciate what all is involved in getting it there.”

Renovating the city buildings is still one of the more rewarding projects for Junger.

“Public works was a dumpy building for a great group of hardworking employees,” he said. “I knew they deserved as nice a building to come to work in every day as anybody. It was really rewarding to be able to work on that type of work.”

In the early 2000s, Junger also attended the city commission retreat and the International City/County Management Association conference for the first time. He realized that there was a whole other world to public service outside the police department.

“I look back to say the early 2000s and if you had asked me what was contributing to the turnaround in Decatur, I would’ve told you it was the police department,” Junger said. “Little did I know that it really took the work of every single department in this city to provide high-quality service.”

It was eye-opening to see how all the departments and city staff have to work together to improve service to the city.

Junger became the assistant city manager for public works in 2006. As the assistant city manager, no day was the same and there were many moving parts in the department.

The responsibilities of the public works department include maintenance of all city buildings, grounds maintenance, streets, stormwater, permitting, fleet maintenance, central supply, and sanitation. Although with the current reorganization, permitting will move to the community and economic development department, and parks and recreation will fall under public works.

“Sanitation is probably one of my favorites,” Junger said. “It’s actually kind of fun because you get to look at it like a business. How am I going to make it work? People want me to recycle glass, and how am I going to do that? What’s it going to cost? How am I going to pick it up and get it where it needs to go?”

West Howard Avenue planters. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Throughout his time in public works, Junger was involved in many projects, including adding planters to West Howard Avenue. The 197 multicolored planters were always meant to reduce the lanes temporarily from four to two on the street but have lasted longer than expected. The city is planning to replace the planters with a permanent traffic-calming solution.

Several years ago, the city worked with the neighborhood on a solution for slowing down the traffic on West Howard, as the wide road presented an opportunity for speeding, Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett said. Children use that route to walk to school and it’s popular with pedestrians and cyclists.

City staff researched other ways to slow down the traffic knowing the planters would be a temporary solution.

“[The recommendations for permanent solutions are] a little later than we anticipated, and I think all of us would say that the planters did their job in terms of narrowing the street,” Garrett said. “I think we were hoping to get a more permanent solution in a little sooner, but certainly COVID has impacted our ability to get some of the projects restarted.”

Junger said the planters were a cheap and effective solution to concerns the community had about crossing the dangerous road. He said city staff came up with the idea, though he declined to name names. Junger said he was surprised at the reaction the planters got initially.

“I really thought it would be received differently, knowing how artsy and creative the community is,” Junger previously said.

The city began working on the “Reimagine West Howard” project in July 2018 to improve safety, access and comfort for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists traveling along West Howard Avenue. The modifications extended from the city limits near Paden Circle to Commerce Drive.

The planters validated the original planning, Capital Projects Manager Hugh Saxon previously told Decaturish.

Finding a permanent replacement for the planters has been tied to the Atlanta Avenue railroad crossing improvements, as both projects have similar goals and focus on bicycle and pedestrian safety.

While the planters may have served their purpose, they also became the punchline of many jokes from residents. Resident Huckleberry Starnes started making stickers, signs and other merchandise poking fun at the planters. One design he started with was redesigning the city logo to feature three planters instead of the building.

“I really love Decatur as a city,” Starnes said. “My response on the logo was basically pointing out the hypocrisy of people who claim to have so much pride in the city, but are also so quick to tear it down when not really adding anything.”

Moving into the role of deputy city manager, Junger has also been interested in organizational development and mentoring. Some components of the deputy city manager job are related to being a strategic advisor and providing support to city staff, especially when it comes to capital projects and implementing master plans.

“I’ve been here 33 years and have had a lot of great opportunities to learn, and I want to try to share those with colleagues because at some point in time I will want to retire. I want to make sure that the organization is well-prepared for the future,” Junger said.

Among the many things Junger has done for the city, he is particularly proud of the solid waste program, adding solar panels to city buildings, and the composting program, which is still a work in progress.

“I’ve enjoyed working with our colleagues on our buildings, on putting Decatur on the map as it relates to building a bikeable and walkable community,” Junger said. “I know [composting is] coming. We’re going to figure it out. I’m confident of that.”

Saxon moved into the role of capital projects manager at the end of 2022. He had served as deputy city manager since 2004. Saxon said Junger is a terrific leader, smart, hard-working, a great team-builder and a dedicated public servant.

“The city of Decatur is lucky that David wanted to make a transition from the police department to public works. His professional approach to public service and leadership style were never more apparent and valuable than during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the public works department had to continue to provide in-person services to Decatur residents during a very challenging time,” Saxon said. “On a personal level, being able to work with David is one of the main reasons I still enjoy coming to work. He is a true partner and a pleasure to work with.”

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