Gordon Smith, the Town of Amherst’s operations manager, is hanging up his hard hat. After 14 years on the job, the 62-year-old is retiring. His last day on the job was Nov. 3.
“I’m going to miss the staff I’ve worked with at public works and town hall,” he said on the eve of his retirement. “They’re just such a dedicated group. If I had to make a call at 1:30 in the morning, whether it was for a break in a water main or a sewer line or to plow snow, they were there. Always.”
The dedication worked both ways said Jason MacDonald, the town’s deputy-CAO. “It has been a pleasure working directly with Gordon over the last four years,” MacDonald said. “Gordon has always been a dedicated, conscientious employee who wanted to do the best he could for the town.” Smith, who has an engineering technologist-surveyor diploma from Loyalist College in Bellville, Ont., joined the town staff in 2003 as the water and sewer foreman, after spending 13 years as the superintendent of public works for Sackville, N.B. Prior to that, he worked for ADI Engineering in Moncton. “It was a career opportunity,” Smith said, recalling the decision to come to Amherst. As a foreman, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the water and sewer crews. About two years into the job, former town engineer Ron Patterson offered him his current position. “I became responsible not only for the day-to-day operation of the sewer and water crews, but also the maintenance of all town equipment as well as the town streets,” he said.
The biggest change Smith has seen during his 14 years with the town is the move towards computerization. “It’s very computerized now,” he said. “We now have a system that monitors all the lift stations and wells. GPS is in every vehicle, so we know where the crews are at all times. We have catalogues of all of our equipment, right down to serial numbers, as well as every manhole, catch basin, valve and fire hydrant.” MacDonald said Smith was “instrumental in bringing our municipal infrastructure service records into the digital age.” As an example, it was noted that during Smith’s time on the job, information on where each home’s water and sewer lines are located have been moved from paper cards to online. “That’s saved us all kinds of time. The crews can access the information right from the trucks. They no longer have to come back to or radio the office to get it,” Smith said.
Major challenges and achievements included upgrading the town’s mapping and upgrading its fleet of equipment, Smith said. “When I first came here, the last mapping had been done in 1982. Now we have new maps every two years that show our water lines, sewer lines and storm sewers, and all that mapping is now on our Geographic Information System. It’s invaluable,” Smith said. “And when I came, the town’s equipment and vehicles were very outdated. With the help of (CAO) Greg Herrett we were able to convince the town about the value of keeping a modern fleet. Keeping a modern fleet actually saves money and there is less down time for repairs.” As an example, he points to a $98,000 snowblower the town purchased last year. “It’s made clearing the streets much more efficient.”
On his last day, Smith was feted during a luncheon attended by town staff, family and council members. Mayor David Kogon said Smith’s dedication to the job “was exemplary.”
“Gordon’s knowledge, the excellent relationship he had with his co-workers helped our operations department run smoothly,” the mayor said. “His talents will be missed. I wish him, his wife, Susan, and his family all the best in this “well-deserved retirement.”
CAO Greg Herrett echoed the mayor’s comments.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank Gordon for his years of service to the town,” Herrett said. “From major snowstorms to 2 a.m. water main breaks, to everyday maintenance, our public works effort has benefitted greatly from his leadership, knowledge and experience on the job.”
Smith said he and his wife, Susan, are looking forward to visiting family, travelling, going on motorcycle jaunts and spending time at the family’s camp and cottage.