Lebanon Hires Claremont’s DPW Director

Claremont — The resignation of the city’s public works director is a “tremendous loss” for the city but also presents an opportunity to look at restructuring the department, City Manager Guy Santagate said Friday.

After eight years of running the department that oversees all infrastructure, including streets and roads, the water and sewer departments and the city’s transfer station, Bruce Temple will become the assistant director of public works in Lebanon, a new position created two years ago. His last day in Claremont is Aug. 8.

“I think it is a good match,” said Lebanon City Manager Greg Lewis, who has been seeking to fill the position with the “right person” since it was created. “I wanted someone with experience in the Upper Valley. Bruce also has the education and people skills.”

One of Temple’s roles, as second in command, will be to step in when needed to take over for department head Mike Lavalla when he is away.

“He will assume all the responsibilites of the public works director and I think that is really important for our operation,” Lewis said. “I want to be able to look to him as I look to Mike.”

In addition to the day-to-day work, there are several major projects underway, including Slayton Hill, Mechanic Street and design of the Mascoma River Greenway, to name a few, and Lewis said the addition of Temple will make managing all the work easier.

“I think it will help us with our pressing needs to have another strong professional,” Lewis said.

Temple did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Santagate agrees that Lebanon is getting a top notch professional in Temple.

“He did a tremendous job for us. He is hard working, honest and dedicated,” Santagate said.

He complimented Temple for exemplary skills not only managing the department employees and workload but also his budget, which was always short of what was needed for paving and sidewalk work.

“He was careful with every penny. I am sorry to lose him and I thank him for what he has done,” Santagate said.

As for what comes next, this is an opportunity to see whether there is another way to manage the department, the city manager said.

“It may be time to look at some type of restructuring,” Santagate said, emphasizing that he has nothing in mind at this point but wants to have the discussion and explore whatever possiblities may exist. “Do we go forward as we are of do we change? Maybe we will look at combining some departments. We do have a lot of time to study it.”

The goal of any restructuring will be to find a way to get the same or additional work done more cost effectively, he said.

Santagate understands why Temple, who has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Vermont and a master’s in engineering from the University of Florida, decided to seek another opportunity. He said the position of each department head has a salary cap set by the council and public works is around $94,000, which Temple could reach in a couple of years. He currently earns $85,000.

“I hate to see him go, but we could not keep up,” Santagate said.

Lewis said he expects Lavalla and Temple to work out how to allocate their daily responsibilities, and now, with two individuals with extensive experience, it gives the department a lot of flexibility.

“We are really happy about that,” he said.

In a news release Friday, Lavalla welcomed Temple to Lebanon.

“As part of the DPW community, I am familiar with Bruce’s work at the city of Claremont and have a great deal of respect for his professionalism and accomplishments,” Lavalla said.

Temple is the third upper level employee from Claremont to leave for a job in the Upper Valley in the past year. Tim Ball, SAU 6 business administrator, announced this week that he has taken the same job with the Lebanon School District and last year, Claremont’s Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hausler became the assistant in the parks department in Hartford.

In his resignation letter to Santagate on Wednesday, Temple said working under the city manager the last eight years “has been exciting and the city has moved forward in the most positive way.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com