Dr. Karun Sreerama: Houston’s Director, Department of Public Works and Engineering


By Manu Shah

HOUSTON: On March 29, the City Council confirmed Dr. Karun Sreerama’s appointment as Houston’s Director, Department of Public Works and Engineering. This culminated a nationwide search for the right candidate but as Chairman David Mincberg succinctly put it, “one name stood out.” The appointment makes Sreerama the first Asian to be appointed to the post and the highest office held by an Asian American in the City of Houston.

Family, friends and well-wishers turned out to fill the city hall. Mayor Sylvester Turner expressed his deep trust in Sreerama’s ability to head the 4000 strong department. Karun, he said, came with “a great deal of experience, not just one or two, but four post graduates degrees” and will work to foster a new culture, streamline operations and ensure that the right people are in the right positions to get the job done.

Dr. Karun Sreerama

Dr. Karun Sreerama

Almost every one of the 16 Council members also conveyed their support of his choice as Director of Public Works and Engineering. Councilmember Dwight Boykins highlighted his “can do attitude,” Councilmember Steve Le recalled Karun’s confident words – “I can stretch that dollar” while Councilmember Ellen Cohen endorsed his “unquestionable skills” but wryly wondered “how long his smile is going to last.”

In response to the standing ovation he received, Sreerama thanked Mayor Turner and the Councilmembers for the “honor and trust reposed in him” and promised to keep that trust and do everything that is expected of him.


In a reception that followed, Chairman David Mincberg described Sreerama as “someone with intimate knowledge of the industry, intimate knowledge of engineering and intimate knowledge of Houston.”

When asked why he agreed to work for the City of Houston, Sreerama’s answer was both personal and simple: he “loves the city.” He promised to make the department transparent and reach out and work with everyone to make the city better.

Sreerama, a native of Hyderabad, India, has some seriously impressive credentials. He is a gold medalist from IIT, Roorkee, one of 12 candidates selected for the prestigious Cambridge Nehru scholarship program, has three masters degrees and if that wasn’t enough, found the inclination to chalk up a doctorate too. His biggest qualification though: he wears his accomplishments lightly, greets everyone with his characteristic warmth and is quick to lend a helping hand.

Sreerama came to Houston in 1988 from the University of Missouri-Rolla where he was pursuing his doctorate in civil engineering and got his start working in Law Engineering. A few years later, he moved to PSI, another consulting engineering firm, but his big break came in 2004 when he bought ESPA – an engineering, construction management and architectural design firm that was up for sale.

Sreerama threw his energies into the business, focused on quality and client satisfaction and went on to double revenues.
He earned his street creds with prestigious projects like the 2nd phase of the George R. Brown Convention Center, the Bush International Airport expansion and the Houston Metro Light Rail. Despite the company’s phenomenal run, Sreerama sold the company in 2013 because the offer was “irresistible.”

Sreerama also became the first non-Anglo President of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Houston (ACEC-Houston) in 2013 and has been the recipient of several community awards.

The Indo American and South Asian communities are clearly elated at the recent appointment. HPD Chief Command Officer Muzaffar Siddiqui spoke for a lot of people when he noted that it “is a very happy moment for us that the Mayor and Council has recognized one of our own as the city’s Director.”

METRO Board member Sanjay Ramabhadran highlighted Sreerama’s long-term involvement with the city and community.

Prominent Houstonian Bobby Singh also reflected that the new Public Works Director “is a welcome change in a department that needed true leadership and one who can make it an outward looking department.”

Sreerama’s wife, Lakshmi is the Associate IT Director at the University of Houston – Clear Lake. The couple have 2 children.