Midland History: Gary Harris
Gary Harris championed many small-town projects beginning in 1982 when he joined Parkhill, Smith & Cooper as a project engineer. Maybe that was because he grew up on a dairy farm outside the small town of Hannibal, Mo., where Mark Twain grew up. In 1968, Gary received a degree in civil engineering from Rolla School of Mines and Metallurgy at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He became the seventh employee in the Midland office and was known for his can-do attitude.
“Gary was an engineer who would tackle anything,” said Ken Buchanan, retired senior resident project representative.
In 1983, Gary assisted Kyle Womack in obtaining the Stanton airport project and the City of Stanton as a new client.
“Kyle, the office manager, was a strong leader, very cordial and outgoing,” Gary said. “He did a lot of things with the Chamber of Commerce,” Gary said. “Kyle brought in Ken (Buchanan), then hired Johnny Poindexter and in the early days of the Midland office, they did a lot of airport projects along with City of Midland projects. They hired Darcy Knight as a secretary, who spent probably 30 years doing paperwork and bookkeeping. She was quite a gal.”
In 1987, Gary became a project manager, doing work in Midland, Martin, Crane, Pecos, Brewster, Ward, Upton, Winkler Counties. City work included Stanton, Coahoma, Eldorado, Odessa, Grandfalls, Rankin, Crane, Monahans, Kermit and Fort Stockton.
In the late 1980s and 1990, Gary’s work as project manager for a permitting project for a Stanton landfill led to a coalition seeking to make regulations fairer for smaller municipalities. The group went to Washington, D.C., and he assisted in presenting the documents to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Office of Management and Budget and other federal officials.
“After multiple meetings with the regulator agency TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) in Austin, we were able to get the rules modified, easing the regulations for small cities,” he said. “The Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission hired PSC to prepare a master plan for solid waste operation and disposal in their 17-county Permian Basin Region. This master plan became part of an overall state plan.”
Work included designing maintenance upgrades for State Department Criminal Justice’s Juvenile correction facilities in Brownwood, San Saba and Vernon. One of his larger projects was project manager of the Crane Water Distribution System Improvements.
“Back then, Crane needed to upgrade their water system, including the well field 18 to 20 miles from town,” Gary said. “The project included an 18-inch transmission line into the city, well field gathering lines, new water wells, upgrades of 2 pump stations and construction of a new pump station, four 1 MG and one 2-MG ground storage tanks.”
In 1994, he became a corporate associate with the firm. Gary’s previous experience included work with midwestern consulting engineering firms and the Missouri State Highway Department Construction Division as a construction inspector. He was a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Management Seminar. He taught courses on bridge construction and asphaltic concrete paving inspection for the Missouri State Highway Department. He is the co-author of a paper on the development of a rural water district that was published in the Public Works magazine.
He was a licensed professional engineer with a primary focus on water and sewer projects. With more than 30 years of experience, Gary also assisted in a significant number of municipalities in the West Texas area with master plans and permits.
He held various offices in the West Texas Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers and was State Vice President of Technical Affairs. He helped oversee an American Society of Civil Engineers State Convention and was the regional coordinator for a National Engineering Design Challenge Contest sponsored by the Texas Society of Professional Engineers.
With a heart for low-income needs, Gary delved into Community Development Block Grant work for smaller communities.
“What made me most proud was that I got to work for a great company, a Christian-based company with strong values.”
Gary retired from PSC in 2007 and worked part time for a year. He and his wife Joetta like to vacation in Pagosa Springs, Colo., as they’ve done for 20 years. They also travel to Kissimmee, Fla., south of Orlando for a couple of weeks and are planning a 30th anniversary trip to Hawaii.
“I’m living it up every day and doing a lot of golfing,” he said, “Praise the Lord.”