After an 18-month search and a retooling of its public works department, Mobile County has found a replacement for long-time engineer Joe Rufer in two current employees.

During a conference meeting Thursday morning, Mobile County Commissioners voted to name Bryan Kegley as the county engineer and Ricky Mitchell as the new public works director and chief engineer of the division of public roads.

Under Rufer, who held the post for 42 years, the engineering department functioned as one body, but that changed after a $30,000 evaluation the county commissioned in 2017 suggested the position wielded too much direct control over a wide-range of county functions.

After a recommendation from an outside consulting firm, the commission decided last summer that several duties previously administered by the county engineer alone would be divided between the position and a newly created public works director position.

In addition, some previous engineering functions like parks and recreation and environmental services were removed from the department entirely and placed under the control of county administration — eliminating a number of what the firm called “duplicative” and “unnecessary” internal functions like IT services, human resources and a standalone finance department.

Under the new format, the supervision of road projects will be handled by Kegley, while other functions like building maintenance and equipment services will fall under Mitchell’s purview, though each will have additional responsibilities outside of those primary roles.

Mitchell and Kegley were each selected from a number of applicants after undergoing public interviews in March.

Kegley, a graduate of Baker High School and the University of South Alabama, has served as the county’s assistant engineer since August 2011. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and is a licensed, professional engineer and land surveyor.

Likewise, Mitchell has served as the county’s deputy public works director since 2011, though he hails from north Alabama. A graduate of Pinson Valley High School, Mitchell attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he completed a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He is also licensed, professional engineer.

The transition should be a smooth one, as Kegley and Mitchell have been supervising engineering functions since Rufer’s retirement in 2016. Going forward, they’ll oversee a department that typically takes up around 30 percent of the county’s multi-million dollar budget.

In a press statement announcing the hires, Commission President Connie Hudson specifically acknowledged the pair’s leadership over the past year and a half as the department was restructured and reorganized from the top down.

“Mr. Kegley and Mr. Mitchell have stepped up and led their respective departments well over the past 18 months,” she said. “We look forward to their continued service and dedication to the citizens of Mobile County.”