It was a winter of record snowfall when Doug Arndt was hired as Monroe Public Works director two years ago. Plow trucks were feeling the wear and tear of long hours on the roads and roofs straining under heavy snow started to cave in.
"My first day at work, I got a phone call that the roof at Stepney 2 collapsed," Arndt recalled, adding Fire Marshall Bill Davin drove him to the firehouse.
Public Works crews shoveled snow off of roofs of town buildings that winter. "It was great to see how the team functioned and people worked very well together," he said of his first days in Monroe.
Arndt recently resigned to take the helm of New Haven's Public Works Department. Though he only headed Monroe's department for two years, Arndt coordinated clean up efforts from downed trees and debris in the aftermath of Storm Alfred and hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
"I feel like I've been through years' worth of life experience with the people here," Arndt said of his time in Monroe. "I'm going to miss the staff I work with directly. It's a very dedicated, professional staff. Anything I was able to bring to or improve for Monroe was because of their efforts."
Arndt, who used to work in the Public Works Department in Stamford, relishes the challenges of working in one of the largest cities in the state, but said his decision to leave Monroe was not an easy one.
Arndt and his wife live in Stratford and have three children between the ages of 9 and 12.
Roads, Facilities ...
First Selectman Steve Vavrek praised Arndt for the continued work on improving the condition of the town's roads, for his leadership during the major storms and for bringing capital improvement needs for the Highway Department's facility and trucks to his attention.
A newspaper article from 1973 in Arndt's town hall office touts the new highway garage, a donated barn building.
"It's in the same condition with no doors and a dirt floor," Arndt said with a smile. He has called attention to how such conditions take a toll on town trucks and equipment.
The average age of a Highway Department truck is over 12-years-old, according to Arndt, who said he made a budget request to replace two or three trucks between the ages of 13 and 22 years-old.
Arndt said it is a credit to the professionalism of the Highway Department crews that they work with what they have to get their jobs done without putting up a fuss over work conditions.
Arndt credits former public works director, Art Baker, with securing the needed funding to get the town started on fixing its crumbling road system. Some major roads the town was able to pave when Arndt was here were Purdy Hill, Wheeler, Turkey Roost and Fan Hill.
A number of processes used to maintain Monroe's roads saved the town hundreds of thousands of dollars, in Arndt's estimation.
Vavrek said Arndt also made it possible for people to file work requests online. Arndt said people filing electronically for the Bulky Waste Pick Up program alone saved his staff many hours.
Hard to Say Goodbye
Monroe Town Hall staff organized a going away party for Arndt in the kitchen last Friday, so co-workers could say goodbye to him over pieces of cake.
Linda Picheco, developmental services coordinator for Public Works, said, "I already miss him. I'm very sorry to see him leave. He was wonderful to work with. He was well-liked. He accomplished a lot when he was here."
David "Rocky" Davin, a Highway Department crew leader, said Arndt had a style of listening to the input of others, influencing the department's decisions, rather than just telling people what he wanted.
"As far as the Highway Department, we're really gonna miss him," Davin said.
Deputy Public Works Dir. Chris Nowacki said, "In his short time, he's been able to do a lot for the town."
With the veteran staff the Public Works and Highway departments have in place, Arndt expects both to continue to make strides long after he's gone.
He said, "I wish everybody the best and wish the continued success to my department particularly and the town as a whole."