The Engineering Man Can

Steve Beams, Gilroy Engineering Inspector and a familiar face

Steve Beams’ talent has earned him a top spot within the city as
well as recognition as Employee of the Year for his service
Gilroy – Steve Beams calls the hood of a white Chevy Blazer his second office. A laptop with wireless Internet is his “filing cabinet.” And a sheaf of blueprints detailing road improvements along Santa Teresa Boulevard is his “bible.”

The items lay scattered on the SUV’s hood on a daily basis as the city’s youthful engineering inspector oversees the widening of Gilroy’s western traffic artery.

At 27, Beams has already risen to a position most attain only after decades of construction experience or through an advanced degree. In addition to coordinating work crews, deliveries of materials and traffic re-routings, he is responsible for keeping the public informed about the status of the project.

His talent and passion for the work has not only earned him a speedy rise through the city’s engineering department, but also a reward for his public service. Last week, Beams’ fellow workers at City Hall voted him employee of the year for 2005. He was selected from a group of 12 candidates who received the employee of the month honor during the last year.

“I was extremely surprised because you have people who save lives in that group – a lot of worthy people,” Beams said. “To grow up in this town and be the youngest employee of the city to win this award, it’s a remarkable thing.”

Some may not realize that Beams had a head start. At age 9, just three years after Beams and family moved to Gilroy from his birthplace in San Jose, he completed his first public works project – a sign off Santa Teresa Boulevard for the 4-H Club, an agriculture education program for youth.

Since then, he has gone on to help build the city with his own hands, first as a local construction worker and more recently as a city engineer and inspector. His biggest project to date has been the Gilroy Crossing shopping center off Highway 152. At the same time as that project, he worked on street and sidewalk improvements along Monterey Street in the city’s downtown.

“Santa Teresa is a smaller project in size than Gilroy Crossing, but far more intense in terms of coordination and outreach,” said Beams, who has transformed into a one-man public relations operation over the course of the project.

He has gone door to door in the neighborhoods surrounding the one-mile widening, between First Street and Sunrise Drive, explaining construction schedules and addressing concerns. He has channeled information about road closures and traffic re-routings to local papers through more than a dozen newsletters.

And he still picks up a shovel and pitches in when the project goes awry, as on New Year’s Day, when motorists may have noticed Beams filling in potholes along the boulevard.

“He’s very dedicated, very community-minded,” City Transportation Engineer Don Dey said. “He clearly goes above and beyond the average amount of work, whether it’s Santa Teresa or some other project. That’s based on his whole sense of doing as much for the city as possible.”

Beams said he “always had a passion for getting out into the community and helping.”

As he finishes up a degree in civil engineering at Gavilan College, Beams says he has no intention of leaving a city where he has invested so much time. In fact, he is already looking forward to his next assignment. With the Santa Teresa project scheduled for completion in December, he predicts City Hall may send him back to Monterey Street in January for the third and final phase of improvements in the city’s historic core.

And despite adding employee of the year to his growing list of accomplishments, Beams is quick to credit others for bringing together the large-scale projects he manages.

He pointed to a picture of his colleagues gathered on a hill overlooking Santa Teresa Boulevard that he keeps with him in a binder.

“It’s people like this in my division,” he said, “that really make things happen.”

For more information about Gilroy’s Santa Teresa widening project, go to

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