LENOX -- After a nearly 19-year run as the town's go-to guy for anything involving roads, water, wastewater systems or, most recently, long-term infrastructure improvements, Jeffrey Vincent has hung up his spurs, retiring from Town Hall as of Monday.
As he cleaned out his office last week, Vincent, 63, emphasized his good fortune "enjoying what I do for a living." But, he explained, "it's been a lot of years doing similar things, and I felt I'd like to try something different. I don't really have a specific ‘different' but I'm going to look around a little bit."
Vincent's formal title was superintendent of the Department of Public Works through August 2012, when he became capital projects manager for the town. He also carried the title of co-interim town manager in recent months while that position was vacant.
Major projects he supervised along the way included the downtown beautification Streetscape program; rebuilding of reservoir dams; the recent reconstructions of West Street -- the heavily traveled route to schools and to Tanglewood in summer -- Crystal Street (the main drag in Lenox Dale), Holmes Road and East Street; wastewater system improvements, new pump stations -- the list goes on.
On his watch, Vincent estimated $40 million has been spent in town and state funding on those projects and others. Still to come: A major state-supported reconstruction of Walker Street (Route 183) from the Route 7 & 20 bypass to Lenox Dale, perhaps in 2017-18.
As a result of all the work, he said, town roads weathered the winter in better shape, with only few potholes, than other communities. Nevertheless, the severe frost-and-thaw cycle shortened the life expectancy of the various streets.
Vincent's major disappointment is the postponement of the town's solar project caused by the financial collapse of the Boston-based contractor, Broadway Renewable Strategies. Restarting the process of constructing the two sites at the wastewater treatment plant and the former landfill, both in Lenox Dale, is "certainly unfortunate and discouraging," he said. "But that doesn't mean they're not going to happen."
On a personal note, Vincent credited his wife, Sally, and his son, Nicholas, 25, (who works in the development office for the Boston Symphony) for strongly supporting his "freedom to do what I do," despite the long hours. He plans to continue living in Lenox, spending more time with his family, and perhaps returning eventually to help out part-time on Town Hall projects.
After college, the Ravena, N.Y., native started 41 years ago at the family construction business in Albany, N.Y., founded by his grandfather, moved to Lenox in 1980 and commuted to that job, sold the business in 1994 and was hired as public works superintendent in 1995, a successor to Allen Sykes and Mike Racicot. He found a well-run department with veteran employees.
"Looking back, I see there was no way I was going to escape the career I ended up following," Vincent said, reminiscing about his grandfather's service as a public works superintendent in a small New York town.
"It's a great feeling to contribute in some way to the community you live in," he added. "My way has been through construction and maintenance of the town's physical infrastructure."
Since Sept. 1, 2012, has served as the town's capital projects manager while mentoring the new DPW superintendent, Sean VanDeusen, and, for 10 months, worked as co-interim town manager.
Asked to comment on the scarcity of candidates and volunteers for town positions, Vincent acknowledged that "It's discouraging to see that apathy and lack of interest in government. Luckily, for Lenox, we've consistently had a good group of government employees that keep us running efficiently. With retirements, there'll be some changes, but hopefully new people will come up to fill those gaps."
But, he said, "For volunteers, it's tough; everybody's busy. It's tough to make time for night meetings and I applaud the people who come out to join committees and run for town office." However, he noted, turnouts for annual town meetings are dwindling each year.
Despite his enjoyment of the major projects he shepherded since 1995, Vincent noted that "for residents, any particular little issue that impacts them, that's the most important thing to those people, even if it's a drainage issue in front of their property. I always found it very rewarding to be in a position to help people, to do something to improve it for them."
He cited "the opportunity to interact with so many great people" in the town and he thanked them, as well as "a great group of co-workers, town managers and select boards" for his opportunity to "develop many great professional relationships."
As for his newfound freedom from day-to-day work commitments, Vincent said: "I don't think I'm there yet, maybe it will be a shock to me."
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto