Current DWSD Chief Operating Officer Sam Smalley appointed Deputy Director

  • The Detroit Board of Water Commissioners recommended the appointment of DWSD COO Sam Smalley as Deputy Director
  • The appointment was made official by Mayor Mike Duggan
  • DWSD Director Gary Brown will continue in his current role
  • Smalley has led the operations and engineering divisions for several years and has been critical in overseeing initiatives including lead service line replacement, sewer cleaning and stormwater management

Today, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) Chief Operating Officer Sam Smalley, P.E., was appointed as the deputy director. He has been with DWSD since 2007 in several different capacities within the department including superintendent of engineering, assistant director of the asset maintenance group and leading the wastewater treatment plant.

“There is no engineer in Detroit nor this state that is more passionate about the water and sewer systems and how they interact with our customers than Sam Smalley. His thoughtful leadership has been pivotal as we came out of the pandemic and returned our focus to maintaining and upgrading one of the largest water and sewer systems in the nation. He is a proven leader among utilities and a natural choice as our next deputy director,” said DWSD Gary Brown.

Smalley also served as the field services director and regulatory compliance director within DWSD, before receiving his most recent role as chief operating officer reporting directly to DWSD Director Brown. His leadership has been critical in speeding up lead service line replacement, driving a five-year cleaning cycle of the local sewer system, securing state and federal funding for stormwater and other infrastructure projects, and building more capacity in the operations division to handle both emergencies and planned water and sewer upgrades.

“DWSD is one of the remaining places, no matter where you start in the organization, where you can make it to the top and everything you do along the way will serve you well at each level,” says Smalley.

He says his knowledge in the field and all that he has acquired through the years will help as he takes on the role as Deputy Director. Sam hopes to continue improving on the positive impact DWSD has on customers and helping more Detroiters move up in the workplace.

“It’s not really the title, it’s just more responsibility of leadership in making sure customers are taken care of and that we’re providing an empowering workplace,” Smalley said.

About ten years ago, Smalley was installed as the director for the wastewater treatment plant in southwest Detroit where he successfully regained compliance and ended a 34-year lawsuit with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). The plant is now operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Before coming to DWSD in 2007, Smalley attended his hometown high school in San Diego. After graduating he decided to attend the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland for General Engineering studies, and by 1993 he had acquired a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the San Diego State University.

Sam Smalley worked as a union apprentice plumber for two years while attending college before landing a gig with the City of Dearborn as their Water and Sewer Utility Manager. Shortly after, he began his journey with DWSD.

Smalley was able to obtain both a S-1 and F-1 license, allowing him to operate any water distribution system and treatment plant in the state of Michigan. He is also a licensed Civil Engineer in both Michigan and California.

To view an overview of Sam Smalley’s journey, you can visit the DWSD YouTube Channel and click on his interview,

About the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) delivers clean water and collects sanitary sewage and stormwater from more than 230,000 accounts, representing a residential population of nearly 700,000. DWSD’s water system consists of more than 2,700 miles of water main and 29,000-plus fire hydrants, and the combined sewer collection system has nearly 3,000 miles of sewer piping, more than 90,000 catch basins and 16 green stormwater infrastructure projects within the city of Detroit. Since June 2019, DWSD has committed $100 million per year to begin to address the aging infrastructure, including replacing lead service lines. To learn more about DWSD or to request water services, make payments, apply for affordability programs, or report water or sewer emergencies, call DWSD Customer Service at 313-267-8000, use the Improve Detroit mobile app, or visit