By Ray Balogh
SYRACUSE — Two recently hired municipal employees were introduced to the community at a noontime open house welcome reception Thursday, Aug. 26, at Syracuse Town Hall.
The event was sponsored by Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Syracuse.
David Wilkinson was installed as the new town manager on Aug. 2; one week later Mark Aurich became the new public works superintendent.
Each gentleman hit the ground running with an apt skill set, positive outlook and generous praise for his colleagues and for the community of Syracuse.
Wilkinson brings a considerable degree of municipal experience to his position.
He worked for the town of South Whitley for 27 years, beginning as a police office in 1989. He was promoted to police chief in 1999, a position he held until his retirement in 2016.
In his final four years with the town, he served double duty as police chief and town manager.
Wilkinson has worked for the past five years doing purchasing for Whitley Manufacturing, but “I missed municipal work,” prompting him to apply for Syracuse’s chief executive job.
“Right now I’m doing a lot of orientation, learning about the community, studying the town’s processes and getting to know the employees and local business owners,” he said.
So far he likes what he has seen. “This town has a great team and all the employees are good to work with. The community is very vibrant.”
And he is looking forward to a future of possibilities. “There is a lot to work with here, a lot of potential for continued growth. The main theme I have been taught so far is, ‘Let’s continue to grow.’”
Wilkinson said he operates with an open door policy. “No appointment is necessary to see me. I am always willing to listen to other people’s opinions.”
He and his wife, Dawn, have been married for 32 years. They have three children, two grandchildren with another on the way and two step-grandchildren.
Among Aurich’s most notable characteristics are his transparency and dedication to his work.
He has worked in the wastewater treatment industry since 1988, when he was 19 years old, and spent 17 years with multi-state water utility company Aqua America.
Aurich, 53, has also “done a lot of consulting with municipalities,” citing the city of Elkhart as an example.
His gratification in working with wastewater treatment exemplifies his responsible stewardship of natural resources, derived from his love of outdoor activities, including hunting, fishing and “cowboy action shooting.”
“It is exceedingly satisfying to stand at the discharge of a wastewater plant and watch cleaner water leave the plant than the creek it is touching,” he said. “In my appreciation of nature, I think, ‘This is my lake, my river, and I want to take care of it.’”
Aurich maintains the same open door policy as Wilkinson. “In fact, I just had that talk with my employees this morning,” he said during the reception.
He is pleased with the staff he has been dealt. “I am impressed with the work ethic of the employees I now oversee, and the job they have done prior to my arrival has been excellent.”
The consummate family man, Aurich and his wife, Tracey, have been married for 32 years. “I am the father of two and the grandfather of one. That is who I am. If you want to know me, meet my family.”
The luncheon was arranged by the chamber and included fare from local businesses Coffee Depot, Louie’s Bar and Grill, The Channel Marker, The Pier and Back Porch, The Frog Tavern, Cafe Liefde, Los Toritos and Huntington Street Bar and Grill.