Getting to know: Mohammad Mostahkami

DOWNEY – Today, the first day of spring, is Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. One Iranian who will definitely celebrate it will be Mohammad Mostahkami, Downey’s new director of public works. He joined Downey’s city staff on Feb. 23. Mostahkami, a native of Tehran, says the celebration of Nowruz actually starts a few weeks before the New Year, with a variety of activities and festivities that symbolize the good things Iranians wish for in the coming new year.

Such things a native of Tehran like Mostahkami doesn’t easily forget. Mostahkami, which he says means “strong” in Persian, graduated from Tehran’s National University with a physics degree (with a 3.95 average), then immigrated here and obtained an M.S. in civil engineering from USC in 1980.

After working for more than a year and a half at a small private firm, Mostahkami began his uninterrupted public service in February of 1984 with the city of Whittier. His career began to pick up when he joined the city of Arcadia in 1985. He was to spend more than 13 years there starting as assistant civil engineer (1985-1989), then associate civil engineer (1989-1991), then senior civil engineer (1991-1994), and finally as assistant city engineer (1994-1997).

But it was when he moved on to South Gate in 1997 that his career really gathered steam. He was to serve the city for more than 16 years.

First he served as senior civil engineer (1997-2001), then assistant city engineer (2001-2002), then city engineer (2002-2010), then held the titles of director of public works/city engineer simultaneously from 2010 up to the time he moved on to Downey just a little more than three weeks ago.

He says his association with the city of South Gate was special. The city even gave him a memorable send-off by issuing a proclamation which summed up his many contributions to the city (outlining his service in the various capacities mentioned, his securing of millions of dollars in grants to cover South Gate’s projects, his management of over $125 million in capital improvement programs [CIP] including street, median, sidewalk; energy-efficient lighting; traffic signal improvements; water improvements; sewer improvements, city facilities and park infrastructure improvements; upgrade of water mains; state-of- the-art traffic management center and the city’s water facilities management center).

It also cited Mohammad’s involvement in the Metro Technical Advisory Committee, the Gateway Cities COG Transportation Committee, and the I-710 Major Corridor Technical Advisory Committee—memberships he continues to be active in today.

It said Mohammad even went above and beyond the call of his position to “make a connection with South Gate citizens and addressed their concerns as they related to parking, traffic safety, and many other public works-related matters.”

Finally, it noted:  “South Gate citizens and employees had the pleasure and benefit of working with this esteemed professional and wish him the best as he continues his exceptional public service.”

Thus it can be said Mohammad has truly been there, done that.

He says he may be new to Downey, but he considers himself a veteran player in the workings of the public works department.  Besides, it’s standard operating procedure that when a really complex technical problem comes up, public works departments (or other departments for that matter) call in a consultant to help them solve the problem.

Thus he says Downey’s department description of “It plans, manages, and maintains the city’s roadway, water, sewer, drainage, and sidewalk infrastructure: vehicle fleet, public facilities, rights-of-way, urban forest, parks and recreation facilities” is nothing new to him.

He has taken note of the fact that Public Works provides essential services to Downey’s population of over 115,000 with the city extending over an area of 12.6 square miles, while the overall responsibilities of the department include the operation and maintenance of the potable water system, sanitary sewer system, and storm drain system, as well as 210 centerline miles of paved streets, 112 acres of parks, 244 vehicles, 10 miles of alleys, 15,600 trees, and 2,000 street lights.

These are of course not alien to his extensive experience either, in the cities he has served, especially the city of South Gate. Further, it’s been documented that he is good at securing grants. Indeed, in welcoming Mohammad to Downey at a recent city council meeting, mayor Fernando Vasquez said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have Mr. Mostahkami joining our city team. His experience and his professional connections, from MTA to Gateway Cities to water and sewer issues, will be invaluable assets to the city.”

He says he decided to work in Downey because he wanted to “explore other opportunities, expand my horizons, and challenge myself.”

His other active memberships include: the City Traffic Engineers Association and the Gateway Cities Public Works Officers Association.

Providing another angle, following is a summary of Mohammad’s experience that appears in his resume: “Over 25 years of experience in management of federal, state, metro and other grant-funded public works and parks projects; extensive experience in water, sewer, drainage, pavement and street lighting master plan preparation; and extensive experience in management and administration of traffic control system, traffic signal synchronization, traffic calming and traffic safety enhancement.”

Seizing a rare chance to visit Tehran after eight years (“to see my folks and relatives”), Mohammad traveled to Iran just prior to reporting for duty in Downey. He came back rejuvenated.

Right now, he says, the department is “extremely busy,” especially with several capital improvement projects underway.

The eldest of four siblings (two boys, two girls), Mohammad resides in Tustin. He says he has played soccer “ever since I was a kid.”  He adheres to a disciplined physical fitness routine, by going to the gym twice a week and watching his diet, with excellent results. He also likes swimming and walking (on the beaches, in the park).He recently took up racquetball.

“My goal,” he says, “is to help the Gateway Cities in any way that will improve the quality of life in the region, especially in the city of Downey.”



Published: March 20, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 49