News Release - Mayor Smith Announces DES Commissioner Jones to Retire, Close More Than 40-year Career

City of Rochester

News Release

(Friday, Dec. 3, 2021) – Rochester Mayor James Patrick Smith announced today that Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Norman H. Jones will retire at the end of the year, closing a more than 40-year career that took him from the City’s lowest paid title to the head of the Department with its largest budget.

“In the city of Rochester, the built environment is synonymous with Norman Jones,” said Mayor Smith. “From the infrastructure to the operating systems to the people who provide the critical services that keep our city running in every weather condition, there is not a mile within Rochester’s 37-square-mile radius that isn’t better today because of his work. The legacy of Norman Jones will outlast all of our lifetimes.”

“My life has been blessed because I have a beautiful family that remains healthy and safe and I had the opportunity to work where I was called,” said Commissioner Jones. “Public service is the highest calling, and I had the honor to serve the people of the city I love, with people I love and respect, over the course of a career that touched six decades. I cannot ask for more than I was given, and I thank God for that every day.”

Commissioner Jones has been the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services (DES) since 2014. He began working as a summer seasonal worker as a junior recreation leader at Clinton-Baden Street Park in 1977 and started his first full-time job in 1985 as a DES customer-service representative, the predecessor of today’s 311 call taker.

DES provides the City’s most comprehensive collection of services, affecting the life of every person who enters the city, whether it’s to live, work or play. With just over 600 full-time employees, it is second in employment to the Police Department but has the City’s largest financial footprint, overseeing $157 million in operating expenses, capital spending and debt service – or about 28 percent of the City’s total budget.

Bureaus and their functions: Operations handles snow removal, refuse/recycling collection and other day-to-day services; Buildings and Parks maintains City facilities, parklands and cemeteries; Architecture and Engineering manages facility and infrastructure construction and upgrades; Water sanitizes and delivers fresh water from Hemlock and Canadice Lakes; and Equipment Services maintains the City fleet and other large equipment.

Commissioner Jones held roles of progressive responsibility, including Dispatcher, Recycling Coordinator, Manager of Building Services and Director of Operations.

During his tenure as Commissioner, DES completed or started some of Rochester’s most transformative physical changes in modern history. Projects completed on his watch include Inner Loop East; the Port of Rochester Marina, the International Plaza at La Marketa; the ROC City Skatepark; and the Rochester Public Market expansion. Projects started include Inner Loop North, more than a dozen ROC the Riverway projects and the Eastman Trail.

The ROC the Riverway program can be traced to the early days of his tenure, when he began sounding the alarm that significant elements of waterfront infrastructure would be closed to the public if they did not receive tens of millions of dollars in upgrades.

Early in his career, Commissioner Jones helped launch the City’s first recycling program. As Commissioner, he introduced Single Stream Recycling and launched the ongoing Compost pilot program. Beyond recycling, his impact on the environment includes the adoption of the Citywide Climate Action Plan; more than doubling the size of the city’s bicycle map with more than 100 new lane miles; and the conversion to more sustainable City operating systems, including LED streetlights, an expanded green fleet and a solar-powered City Hall.

Commissioner Jones launched a program to remove lead-based materials from the City’s more than 145-year-old water distribution system; and he initiated projects to preserve the aesthetic beauty of the Cobbs Hill and Highland Park reservoirs while meeting increased federal safety mandates. The Water Bureau’s ability to supply every city fire hydrant with consistent pressure regardless of outside temperatures played a major role in the Rochester Fire Department’s rank among the top 1 percent of U.S. fire departments.

Recognizing the outsize impact of vehicle repairs on the city’s most vulnerable residents, Commissioner Jones imposed mandates on underground-utility contractors to improve the integrity of streets and roadways after a dig to reduce the ice damage that causes potholes.

Commissioner Jones was born and raised in the city, attended City Schools and the University of Buffalo.