Those future endeavors are believed to include a return to the city of Atlanta, where Wells worked prior to joining DeKalb’s watershed team.
Asked about plans for finding Wells’ replacement and if a national search would be involved, county officials said only that David Hayes — a 26-year veteran of the department — had been named interim director.
Hayes, a former U.S. Marine Corps engineer, started as a treatment plant manager and has been deputy watershed director since 2019.
Wells was appointed acting director of watershed management in March 2018, after predecessor Scott Towler resigned with a scathing letter accusing county leadership of encouraging him to “violate the law and participate in unlawful activities in the operation of DWM.”
County officials have denied Towler’s claims, calling him a “disgruntled former employee,” and in March 2020 paid out $40,000 to settle a whistleblower lawsuit he’d filed. Towler also faced an internal investigation prior to his resignation, accused of collecting a monthly vehicle allowance for about a year while also using a county car. He later agreed to repay the roughly $5,000 he’d collected.
Wells was named the permanent watershed director in Jan. 2019.
At the same time, DeKalb hired Maria Houser as its first-ever director of consent decree and environmental compliance. Houser, an attorney and civil engineer, is tasked with big-picture matters related to the county’s sewer system and the federal agreement that mandates repairs.
The role of directing day-to-day efforts, however, remains one of the most critical jobs in DeKalb County government.
“I’ve really enjoyed serving in DeKalb,” Wells said during a recent county commission meeting, “and I know that only the best is in the future.”