As part of Ocean Shores’ restructuring of its public works department, Tim Hippensteel, a former industry engineer, is joining city staff as the new project manager tasked with orchestrating the development of public infrastructure, including several high-profile projects.
Hippensteel’s hiring comes roughly one year after the city’s former public works director Nick Bird took a job with the city of Aberdeen, and roughly two months after Robert Lund, former city engineer for Ocean Shores, also left his position, leaving city Administrator Scott Andersen and other city staff with much of the work those jobs required.
When attempts to fill the positions proved to be unsuccessful, Andersen took over as head of public works, and the city created a new “project manager” position.
Hippensteel is still settling in, he said, updating himself on past and ongoing projects around the city, learning from Andersen and those who have been picking up the public construction slack for the past year.
“A lot of other people have assumed (project) responsibilities,” Hippensteel said. “Right now I’m trying to take all that responsibility back and do it myself.”
He added, “These people have all been great to me, and I think that anybody would jump out there and give me a hand if I needed it.”
While he’s new to Ocean Shores, Hippensteel is no stranger to the logistical complexities and material realities of civil construction. Hippensteel brings over two decades of engineering experience and crew management — as well as global perspective — to the city.
For 10 years Hippensteel worked as an engineer on oil tankers for ExxonMobile. That job took him across the world’s oceans to Australia, Asia, Europe, and along the North America’s Pacific coast from Panama to Alaska.
Before that, his formal engineering training also came on a ship, when Hippensteel volunteered on different Coast Guard vessels based out of Portland.
Later, Hippensteel worked in two construction-related industries: industrial coatings and heat-treating metals, when, during his time in the latter, he traversed North America ensuring quality in metals used in military, aerospace and medical tools.
He then managed crews and maintenance at a Stimson Lumber plant, leading the plant to some of its highest sales and productivity, Hippensteel said.
“I’ve always been somebody that rolls up my sleeves and gets my hands dirty,” Hippensteel said. “I’ve never been somebody that lets everybody else do the work and watches.”
Hippensteel said he is excited about the potential — and the challenge — of several highly-anticipated projects in the city.
That includes the High Dune Trail, a paved, wheelchair-accessible walking and biking path stretching across the sand dunes from Damon Road to West Chance a La Mer. The city secured right-of-way to build the trail last month after an extended negotiation. Andersen and Mayor Jon Martin said in November that construction on the roughly $1.2 million dollar trail, which will be mostly asphalt with sections of boardwalk, should break ground by spring 2023.
“I sat down with our contracting team today (Dec. 16) and that (the trail) was one of our main focuses,” Hippensteel said. “I think it’s really going to help the city. It’s going to be one of those projects where people are going to notice.”
For the High Dune Trail — and for most projects — Hippensteel’s job will take a “meticulous and organized” approach, coordinating with contractors, city staff and state agencies to ensure all parts of the project are running smoothly.
“You build a team, basically, of everybody that needs to do their special part,” Hippensteel said.
Hippensteel is also familiarizing himself with other large projects, including the city’s plans to build a tsunami tower near Ocean Shores elementary and a sand-dune fire break — projects intertwined with the distinct geography of Ocean Shores, the link between land and sea. It’s an environment Hippensteel is familiar with. He grew up in Astoria, Ore., where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean.
Hippensteel said he feels lucky to be in Ocean Shores, a place that reminds him of home.
“The city is growing, as far as population, but also with the things they are doing,” Hippensteel said. “(The city doesn’t) sit around and get stagnant or put things off. It seems like they are very proactive; the mayor seems really proactive. Everybody that I’ve worked with seems to care about it.”
Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or email@example.com.