Serving Southlake: Navy Veteran Finds Success in Southlake Public Works

Honor. Courage. Commitment.

Before becoming the director of Public Works for the City of Southlake in 2016, Robert Cohen dedicated 20 years of service to the United States Navy – and brought its core values with him to serve Southlake.

Cohen has delivered services across the globe and continues to foster a culture of superior performance, customer service, accountability, and integrity with the 69 employees under his direction in Public Works.

“Having a career in Southlake means that I get to work alongside passionate professionals who have dedicated their lives to serving Southlake. I am truly honored and humbled to have the opportunity and privilege to work with, for and alongside dedicated teams of true professionals who bring their best to Southlake every day; at every event, for every reason and in any season,” stated Cohen.

Patriotism has laid the foundation for Cohen’s path to military service. Having grown up in a community near several major military installations and a military family, Cohen knew he wanted to become part of what he believed was a very elite organization comprised of disciplined individuals protecting freedom and democracy.

Cohen was commissioned in the Navy upon his college graduation and went on to hold roles in public works, program, asset and facilities management, and capital improvements within the Navy while achieving the rank of commander. He also obtained his professional engineer’s license, became a trained financial specialist, and was a member of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Acquisition Corps and a Certified DoD Level II Facility Engineer.

With military experiences as diverse as the positions he has held, a few notable examples include his accountability for a multi-million dollar global energy program, a sweeping shore installation reorganization that integrated 130+ full-time employees from three separate organizations, and resolution of an overseas drinking water treatment issue that ended up saving the Navy $4 million. Cohen also received a Letter of Commendation from the Navy’s senior legal service admiral for saving $200,000 associated with a courtroom renovation project.

Looking for more continuity and less change in his career, Cohen decided to step away from the military.

“I saw many commonalities between serving in the Navy and pursuing a municipal career. I felt that the transition would be somewhat easier if my new career would be similar to what I gravitated toward while in the military, such as public works, said Cohen. “I am a servant leader and wanted to serve a population in the many facets of public works, but on a much smaller scale. I enjoy serving people and if at all possible, working alongside others for a common cause.”

Now, as the director of Public Works for the City of Southlake, Cohen continues to use his extensive military experiences to deliver municipal services. He leads a department that provides public services through planning, engineering, constructing, inspecting, operating, and maintaining Southlake’s public infrastructure. At the helm of a department that manages a $40 million capital improvement program, he guides the oversight of numerous contracts for services as well as inter-local agreements and ensures the department’s responsibility for the environmental protection of the City’s creeks and streams.

“Leading a department responsible for mobility, construction, water, and sewer in the City can be stressful at times, but I imagine Rob’s rigorous military training is the reason why he has been able to stay calm and set priorities to accomplish big results,” said Assistant City Manager Ben Thatcher.

Cohen is one of 35 military veterans employed by the City of Southlake. Veterans Day serves as a humble reminder to recognize and celebrate the brave men and women who have served our country.

“With more than 30 military veterans on our team, we fully appreciate the value they bring to Southlake,” stated City Manager Shana Yelverton. One of the best things about working with Rob and all of our veterans is their willingness to adapt to changing circumstances.”

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