Wednesday January 16, 2013

LENOX -- After 17 years as head of the Department of Public Works, Jeffrey Vincent is busily showing the ropes to his recently appointed successor, Sean VanDeusen.

On his second day at his new post, VanDeusen, 32, was touring the town’s 52 miles of roads, inspecting snow-removal equipment and preparing for his first Lenox snowfall -- 3 to 6 inches expected today.

But VanDeusen is no stranger to icy, snow-covered roads: He was with the highway department for a year and a half in Mount Washington, population 167, which bills itself as "The Town Among the Clouds" and is the state’s third-smallest community.

VanDeusen’s appointment, recommended by Town Manager Gregory Federspiel, was enthusiastically approved by the Select Board at its most recent meeting.

Selectman John McNinch, who conducted interviews along with Selectman Edward Lane, noted that eight candidates had been considered.

"We whittled it down and we think we’ve come up with a great young person to take over in Jeff’s footsteps," said McNinch. "He’s a go-getter and he’ll be a great asset for this team that does such a great job."

Noting that VanDeusen was the first candidate interviewed, Lane said that "we seemed to always go back to him, he was the guy who had that enthusiasm and intelligence. He wanted to work and do a good job, and I think the town is going to be very happy with him."

Vincent, 62, will move over from the DPW garage to Town Hall to manage capital projects for the town, working with Federspiel.


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"It’s a great opportunity for Jeff to mentor someone coming on and for Sean, who has good experience, to benefit not only from Jeff’s experience but from the experience of a very good crew," said Federspiel.

Vincent, interviewed on Tuesday, said he has been introducing VanDeusen to the 12-member DPW staff and "helping him to get to know the lay of the land," including a sewer-pump station problem that developed suddenly.

"We don’t want to make the job seem too easy," Vincent said.

"He’s learning the snowplow routes and getting to know the crew," Vincent added.

While coping with snowstorms are "stressful, important events," said Vincent, there are other even more significant challenges involving public health and environmental safety.

The DPW is responsible for producing the town’s drinking water and for treating wastewater. It also maintains town cemeteries.

"These are equally critical, even if the public isn’t as aware of them," he said. "There are a lot of aspects to the job, and it all comes down to customer service."

Vincent acknowledged that he sees "a lot of similarities" in background and temperament between his younger self and VanDeusen.

"He has a nice personality, and I hope the town is patient and cuts him a little slack," he said. "I think he’s capable of learning quickly."

VanDeusen, who grew up on the family farm in Alford and graduated from Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, acknowledged that he has much to learn, "but the men are extremely knowledgeable, skilled and helpful."

Noting that Mount Washington has only 19 miles of roadway -- nine of them seasonal dirt roads -- VanDeusen said, "there’s a lot to wrap my head around" in Lenox.

VanDeusen’s in the process of moving to an apartment in town and is grateful for the guidance from Vincent.

"I’m in good hands with Jeff. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met," VanDeusen said.