Mike Starks is taking over as superintendent of the Chautauqua Utility District just as the second-largest public works project ever constructed on the Institution grounds wraps up. Thoroughly trained on the array of new management and diagnostic tools afforded by the new wastewater treatment plant, Starks is excited to lead the CUD into a new era of ecological responsibility and efficiency.
Starks follows Tom Cherry, whose 40-year career in the same position enabled him to build up tremendous credibility among Chautauquans of several generations. Cherry retired May 15.
“Tom Cherry certainly left big shoes to fill,” Starks said. “But while Tom always said he wanted to be remembered as a passionate defender of Chautauqua Lake, he also was very conscientious about setting up a succession plan for the CUD generally and for his own position in particular.”
Starks, now with just over a month under his belt as CUD supervisor, began working at CUD 12 years ago. Before that and just after finishing school, Starks worked for several years as a parts manager at a Chrysler dealership in Westfield.
After working for two summers at the Chautauqua sewer plant, he secured a full-time position there and began working on the numerous specific certifications needed for greater responsibility. A Chautauqua County native, Starks studied biology and water treatment facility management at Jamestown Community College and continued his education through the SUNY Empire correspondence course curriculum.
An avid outdoorsman who loves fishing and camping, Starks now lives in Mayville with his wife, Beth, two sons aged 14 and 11, and a daughter who is 5. Beth Starks is a professor of early childhood education at JCC and is working on her PhD in the same field. She runs the day care program at Chautauqua Lake Central School.