As a public servant, Rick Sweet made a name for himself as a man who could take complex problems, break them down into smaller pieces, and find solutions that eluded others.
No project illustrated that more than the repair of the Santa Maria River Levee, for which Sweet and the City Council worked hard to secure $40 million for construction. Without that repair, half of Santa Maria’s property owners would be paying high flood insurance premiums for generations to come.
He is described as extremely dedicated to the improvement of the City of Santa Maria. Public Works Director Steve Kahn said Sweet is a close friend and valuable advisor on city issues.
“He is a big picture thinker,” Kahn said. “He can take complex issues and find the solutions, find the funding, and find the political solutions.”
Sweet was recognized with the Robert F. Grogan Public Service Award at the 96th Annual Awards and Installation Dinner of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce Aug. 12.
Sweet was raised in Bakersfield with his two brother and two sisters. His father Bob was a civil engineer, and his mother Betty was a nurse.
As a youth he earned Eagle Scout rank. He graduated from California State University Fresno in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
He worked as a Transportation Engineer with Caltrans in Fresno before being hired as Assistant Civil Engineer in 1986 with the City of Santa Maria.
He worked his way through the ranks with several significant projects, eventually being named City Engineer in 1990. He retired from fulltime work in 2014 after 28 years with the city.
During his tenure, he oversaw the growth of Santa Maria from 60,000 residents to more than 100,000. Along with that came many changes, including:
- Widening of the 101 Freeway
- State Water project facilities
- Abel Maldonado Youth Center
- Paul Nelson Pool Reconstruction
- New Water Wells
He went on to become the Director of Public Works for the city, as well as Director of Utilities. He continues to work as an advisor on several projects.