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Carrier left mark on hundreds of city projects

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2010, at 12:03 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2010, at 6:24 a.m.

Chris Carrier's impact is visible across Wichita in flood-reduction projects, elevated railroads, freeways, streets, bridges and filled potholes.

He didn't do it alone, and he'd be the first to point that out.

But his easy-going leadership style and uncommon candor as director of public works played a role in hundreds of projects and policy changes at City Hall.

"Chris was the epitome of a dedicated public servant," City Manager Robert Layton said Monday. "He was someone who was warm, friendly to anyone he came into contact with, truly represented the best interest of this community in the work he did."

Carrier died Sunday afternoon while doing something he loved — riding his new Victory motorcycle through Riverside Park. He was 62.

Police Chief Norman Williams said Carrier was eastbound in the 1000 block of Stackman Drive, going 10 to 12 miles an hour and wearing a helmet. He veered to the right and hit the curb on the south side of the road, according to a westbound driver who had passed him and watched through his rearview mirror.

The motorcycle fell on top of Carrier. The other driver lifted the bike off of him. Carrier was unconscious and the driver called 911. Carrier was taken to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, where he died later Sunday.

Preliminary autopsy reports indicate Carrier had a heart attack before crashing his motorcycle, city spokesman Van Williams said. No other details were available.

Council member Janet Miller said she talked to Carrier last Friday about intersections and pedestrian safety, including one spot in Riverside Park.

"He said, 'Yeah, I love to ride my bike down there on Sundays. So I know exactly what you're talking about. We do need to do something about it,' " Miller recalled.

"He knew this city and cared about everything from pedestrian safety in the parks to flyovers over the floodway.''

Mayor Carl Brewer said Carrier responded quickly to concerns and seemed to take every resident's concerns seriously.

"You never heard anything negative come out of his mouth," Brewer said. "He was always looking for solutions."

Carrier began working for the city in 1997 as the stormwater utility engineer and was appointed public works director in January 2005.

He oversaw major projects that reduced flooding across the city, facilitated suburban growth and improved traffic in a city recognized for some of the nation's best commute times.

Those projects included the award-winning Central Rail Corridor, improvements to the Keeper of the Plains, recovery from the 1998 Cowskin Creek Halloween flood and continued expansion of the Kellogg Expressway.

Layton selected Carrier to lead a larger public works operation in March, when the public works and water utilities departments merged.

As head of the merged departments, Carrier was responsible for 10 divisions, 840 employees and a $41 million budget.

Assistant Director of Public Works Joe Pajor has taken over Carrier's responsibilities for the time being. No decision on an interim director has been made.

"Chris had the ability to keep a lot of ongoing project information in his head," City Engineer Jim Armour, who worked closely with Carrier for years, wrote in an e-mail. "He never let a detail drop. I will certainly miss him."

A native of Newton, Carrier served as public works director and city engineer in Dodge City, public works director in Ford County, city engineer and superintendent of streets and drainage in Shreveport, La., and city engineer in Newton.

Carrier also served as assistant county engineer in Polk County, Iowa, and the water resources engineer and supervisor of the regulation section for the Iowa Natural Resources Council.

He also worked in the private sector as vice president and division manager for D.C. Construction Corp. of Louisiana and a project engineer for Snyder & Association.

Carrier had a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Kansas.

He was married to Sandra and had two adult children.

Contributing: Stan Finger and Bill Wilson of The Eagle. Reach Brent D. Wistrom at 316-268-6228 or bwistrom@wichitaeagle.com.

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