, Newburyport, MA

March 28, 2014

DPW's Waelter retiring after 25 years on the job


---- — SALISBURY — Public Works director Donald Levesque’s voice cracked with emotion Monday night when discussing the coming retirement of one of his staff.

The DPW is about to lose its business manager, Kathy Waelter, after 25 years of service to the town and its residents, Levesque told selectmen, as his chin trembled, and he admitted he was going to miss her terribly.

“When I first came to Salisbury, I came from a big city, Nashua, and it wasn’t easy,” Levesque said yesterday. “Kathy knew the system, she knew the ropes, and she wasn’t afraid to tell me how things got done. Sometimes I did wonder who was the boss, but she’s great.”

Although sorry she’s leaving within the next few weeks and taking all her knowledge with her, Levesque said since she’s retiring to be spending more time with her family, he’s happy for her.

“One of the things Kathy does very, very well is that she’s very precise with numbers,” Levesque said. “If I’m going to a meeting and Kathy’s prepared the numbers, I know I’m OK.

Levesque had an impressive set of statistics to give selectmen at Monday night’s meeting that indicated how difficult and expensive this brutal winter has been. The DPW recorded 80 inches of snow, spent $192,782 — way over its $99,000 snow budget — used 2,000 tons of sand, 1,200 tons of salt and dealt with 32 snow/sand/plowing events to keep up with the never-ending storms.

Levesque has promoted longtime DPW secretary Donna O’Keefe to take over when Waelter retires, but O’Keefe isn’t happy about the loss either.

“Oh, my gosh, I’m going to miss her. It’s been wonderful working with her,” O’Keefe said. “She’s worked with so many people in town. She knows everyone in town.”

Selectmen were also sad to hear of the town’s loss, voting unanimously to send Waelter a letter, thanking her for all her work and wishing her well.

As for Waelter, she can’t figure out what all the fuss is about, wanting to be “low key” about leaving. She was a bit appalled that Levesque — whom she called an “old softy” — would make such a public announcement.

“I’m a person who likes to stay in the background,” she said. “I don’t like a lot of attention. But you know, if you can work somewhere for 25 years and consider your co-workers your friends, how nice is that? It’s been great. I’m going to miss everyone here. We’ve worked together very closely and we’ve gotten things done. It’s like a family here.”