Calls district ‘good, solid’

Mark Stephenson, 47, doesn’t have a printed resume.

“I guess my resume’s here,” he says, sitting in his office. “I’ve been living it for 25 years.”

Stephenson was recently named the Orange County Drainage District’s new general manager after the board let go seven-year manager Wilbert Duhon. 

A board attorney told The Record Newspapers last week a review will be made of current internal practices.

Stephenson, a 1980 graduate of West Orange-Stark High School, previously served as assistant general manager, working his way up from a basic sign-on position in 1985.

While saying that some internal controls will be made stronger, he adds that the district is basically a good, solid organization.

“We’re within our budget every year; we’re not just barely making it,” he says. “We have some very good employees – some of them long-term – who have been here 28 or 29 years. And it’s a good place to work. We have a lot of interlocal agreements with the other cities – our neighbors – like the city of Bridge City, the city of Orange or the city of Vidor … when they do need our assistance, of course, we’ll try to help them when we can and they do the same for us.”

The recent hurricanes, Stephenson describes as “detrimental” to the district.

“We’ve had to put a lot of our energy and resources into clean-up, which we’re not use to doing, or I should say had not been used to doing, and that’s kind of put us back. One thing we need to focus on are these detention areas we have. You go to other counties and you hear that theirs are all in place. We do have some property we’ve purchased recently – the county has – and we need to get some of these things kicked off.”

Detention ponds provide flood waters a place to go rather than populated areas.

Stephenson has been married to Norma Stephenson for 24 years.

Their son, Robert, works at Firestone Credit Union in Bridge City.

“When I came here in 1985 I was in the lowest position you could come into,” Stephenson says. “Then I worked with a heavy equipment operator – and with heavy equipment – and I fulfilled that role for several years.”

He got the chance to move up to a survey group and learned to “shoot” elevations. In 1992, he became a field superintendent.

“I began to learn how ‘the field’ operates – of putting the correct equipment in the correct place and at the correct time. Things like, ‘Who are the personnel and how do you handle personnel problems?’ Each step I’ve gone through here has been a learning experience.”

When he began working as Duhon’s assistant manager in 2002, he says, “It was more or less a title change rather than a responsibility change. But there was a little more responsibility, and I began putting budgets together.”

Stephenson’s father was a Baptist preacher, and at the time of Mark’s birth the family was living in DeRidder, La. But just 18 months later, they moved to Southeast Texas.

“My roots are deep in Orange County,” he says, adding, “I love my job.”

And that job, he says, he “just fell into.”

“I was working in Mauriceville in 1985, and a guy I knew who worked here came in and asked me to fill out [a district] application.
I got the job and have been here ever since.”

District board members are Bill Dixon, J.B. Arrington, Hal Lapray, Jimmy Scales and Brent Peveto. Board meetings take place at 10 a.m. Tuesdays at the district office, 8081 Old Highway 90 in Orange.