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Hartford Honors Parks Foreman

White River Junction — On Oct. 25, the town of Hartford will honor the 30-year career of retiring Parks and Facilities foreman David Dean with a party at West Hartford’s Clifford Park. The celebration is just one of many developments Hartford’s recreation department has to be excited about.

Dean departs Oct. 18, three days before the arrival of new assistant recreation director, Scott Housler, who for the last 16 years has helped greatly enhance programs and facilities in Claremont as that city’s recreation director.

Former intern Jay McDonough has been promoted to program director, helping fill the void left when eight-year program coordinator Matt Frazee left last winter to become recreation director in Stowe, Vt.

The changes coincide with an $8.99 million bond voted onto the budget at Town Meeting this year. The bond will allow Hartford’s recreation department to continue development of the 52-acre Maxfield Property off of Route 5 South — a future multisport complex slated to include eight total athletic fields and courts, a jogging and walking path and three pavilions along with $2.5 million in renovations to Wendell Barwood Arena, plus a new pump house and children’s pool along with renovations to the middle school gym.

“There’s a lot of positive energy going on in this department and this town,” Hartford Recreation Director Tad Nunez said. “There are a lot of changes happening, but they’re good ones.”

Originally hired to assist former recreation director Dean Pierce in 1984, Dean later became parks and facilities foreman. Aside from major improvements to Barwood Arena (formerly Hartford Municipal Arena), he’s overseen the development of Hartford Village’s Watson Park, Kilowatt Park in Wilder, downtown White River Junction’s Veterans Park and the 142-acre Hurricane Forest Wildlife Refuge.

From dog waste and rubbish removal to mowing and grooming, Dean performed maintenance throughout Hartford’s five villages on a daily basis.

“I’d say the most challenging thing was probably having to cover so much ground,” Dean said. “Our parks are really scattered around the town. There would be mowing the ball fields on one side of town, then having to take care of the pool and the arena and things like that.

“But I always said it was the best job in the municipality. The thing I took most pride in was riding by parks at the end of the day and seeing them in use. Seeing people playing volleyball on a field we just mowed or a Little League game on a field we just took care of, or 100 kids playing in the pool. That kind of thing carries a lot of satisfaction.”

Even when he was off the clock, Dean’s reliability as a public servant was never on hold. The White River Junction native and 1973 Hartford High graduate was always available, day or night.

“I can’t tell you how many times I called him in to help with something at all hours of the night,” said Nunez, Dean’s supervisor since 1987. “He’d have been off (from work) for hours, already having worked a double that day, and he’d pick up the phone and be there in a heartbeat if we needed something. I think what that comes from is that in this department we all consider ourselves public servants, and that goes for all hours of the day.

“When someone asks me what I do for my work, I say I’m a public servant before anything else,” Dean said.

Housler, 49, became recreation director in Claremont in 1997 after spending five years in the same position in Sherburne, Vt. In Claremont, he oversaw the creation of a pristine track and field facility at Monadnock Park, trail enhancements at Moody Park, the construction of several playgrounds and the new Claremont Savings Bank Community Center, which opened in March.

Housler also helped implement a number of community celebration activities, including the popular Fall Festival and Chilli Cookoff on the Visitor’s Center Green. The 16th edition of the event takes place today from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and includes an apple pie eating contest and seasonal beer garden for the first time.

“That’s been one of my favorite events during my time here because it really brings out the community spirit,” said Housler, a Wilder resident whose children are students in the Hartford public school system. “It’s never really a good time to make a move like this, but the opportunity came up, and when I took a hard look, I decided it would be a good fit personally and professionally.”

Frazee, a White River Junction native, departed for Stowe in January just before one his favorite annual events in Hartford, the youth ice fishing derby at Dewey’s Mills Pond in Quechee. He’s been busy in tourism-rich Stowe, often falling back on the experience he gained working in his hometown for guidance.

“What I did in Hartford is a huge resource, a huge tool for me now,” said Frazee, who mentioned helping Hartford transition to computerized program registration among his proudest contributions. “I certainly miss being in the town I grew up in, seeing guys I grew up with and their kids playing youth sports and things like that. I’m always going to miss that.

“I miss a guy like David Dean, who just has so much integrity and did so many things outside of what he was required to do. I have a tremendous amount of respect for guys like him.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.