Highland City Manager Mark Latham was recently given an award for his 40 years of service as a public servant.
At the International City Managers Association’s annual conference, which was in San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 22-25, Latham was one of the people recognized for achieving this milestone. Latham said there was about 4,000 people at the conference from 22 different countries, and there were 15 people awarded for their service.
“Talking to the other individuals that received them, I think we all started the same way,” Latham said.
When Latham went to college, he said it was not with public administration in mind. He went to study how to become a teacher or a coach. But when he graduated, he could not find a position in those fields and started working in the Parks and Recreation Department in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Latham was earning $1.85 an hour, cutting grass, weed eating and coaching swimming.
Shortly after Latham started working with the department, something unexpected happened.
“I’ll never forget this as long as I live,” he said.
The city manager called him and told him that his boss, the director of parks and recreation, was leaving, and he wanted Latham to have his job.
Latham worked as the director of parks and recreation for 16 years. In 1993, the Siloam Springs city manager resigned, and that was when Latham got a call from the mayor.
“He said, ‘Mark the council wants you to step in and serve interim as city manager,’” Latham recalled.
After talking to his wife, Latham accepted. Three months later, the council made it his permanent position. He served as city manager of Siloam Springs for the next 12 years. Latham said during that time period, Siloam Springs doubled in size.
“Just tremendous growth,” Latham said.
He left Arkansas in 2004, when he came to Highland to become its city manager. During his tenure, the Highland has seen many long-term projects get accomplished, including construction of the city’s peripheral route, the building of the new HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital, and creation of a city-owed fiber-optic system that can supply broadband to every home and business in town.
Latham said his favorite part about the job is looking at the impact it has on the community.
“You can step back and see all the thing you have been a part of in making the community better,” he said.
The Highland City Council approved a four-year contract extension with Latham during in May. In that time, Latham said he hopes to finish improvements to the city wastewater system, construct a new roundabout at St. Rose and Iberg roads, improve Oak Street, and improve the watershed for Silver Lake to cut the amount of sediment finding its way into the city’s reservoir. He also plans to continue the fight against Federal Emergency Management Agency over its Map Modernization Program, which designated high-risk flood areas.