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Royal finally appointed as Public Works director
• Replaces Damas who retired over one year ago
Sam Royal
Sam Royal is Ceres’ new Public Works director. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Samir “Sam” Royal has been the acting Public Works Director for the city of Ceres since the resignation of Jeremy Damas in December 2021 but last week finally got the job as the permanent director.

The city actively recruited for Damas’ replacement for seven months without success, said Human Resources Director Delilah Vasquez, while keeping Royal in the role as interim. She noted that the position is a hard one to fill since it requires knowledge and experience in streets, sewer, facilities, parks and recreation. In a staff report to the council Vasquez noted that in his trial role that Royal “has satisfactorily performed the duties and responsibilities and meets the minimum qualifications of the position.”

Royal said he wanted to test out the job before accepting the permanent position.

“To be honest with you, I had my chance to accept it earlier but I asked the city manager to hold off until I get really comfortable with the operation here,” said Royal. “I was involved in engineering  and I’ve  been an engineer for 35 years so for me to switch roles from engineering to direct people to do stuff was a little bit of a challenge on my end. That’s why I gave myself extra time to see whether I would be comfortable doing this or not.”

Vasquez said that Royal “possess a vast knowledge and experience in the public sector which includes 12 years of service at the City of Merced.”

Royal’s salary starts out at $12,475 per month, or $149,700 annually through June 30.

Royal began his career with the city on Sept. 12, 2016, as an associate engineer in the Engineering Department.

Born in Lebanon, Sam fled to the United States with his family in 1976 because of the civil war tearing apart his homeland. He was 14 years old when the family landed in Chicago where the Red Cross sponsor was living. Sam spent his teen and early adult years in the Windy City. In 1986 he earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Royal also studied at Triton College in River Grove, Ill.

In 2004 he came to California after being offered a position as an engineer technician by the city of Merced. He remained there 12 years before the city of Ceres hired him.

For now, Royal has been occupied with effects of the recent storms, managing downed trees, filling potholes and flooded roadways. Bigger projects include getting the 3 million gallon water tank at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park in operation this September when the surface water project operation is turned on.

For decades the position of Public Works Director was filled by Joe Hollstein who also doubled as city engineer. He served from 1978 to 2007. Phil Scott occupied the position from 2007 to 2010 when he resigned. Glenn Gebhardt doubled as city engineer and public works director in 2010. Mike Brinton then served as public works director and acting city engineer with the help of consultants. When Brinton left Jeremy Damas took charge of the Public Works Department.