BRATTLEBORO — Dan Tyler likes to look at everything with an open mind.
He officially started as Brattleboro’s public works director on Dec. 18, a day after Steve Barrett retired.
“I’d say we started making a transition after he announced his retirement,” Tyler said. “He kind of stepped back a little bit and let me take the reins, and helped me out where I needed it and was there for support, and facilitated a smooth transition hopefully.”
When asked how it’s going, Tyler said, “So far, so good.”
“I think Steve was here a long time and built a successful program at public works,” Tyler said. “We have a strong staff and strong supervisors who have made the transition pretty smooth so far.”
Tyler, who has always lived in Dummerston, worked for the Vermont Agency of Transportation in the construction division where he would oversee infrastructure projects such as bridges and paving. Then he went into the private construction industry for about a dozen years.
Having worked closely with the Brattleboro Department of Public Works over the years on items related to water and sewer, Tyler said he knew Barrett and the players.
“We had talked over the years casually,” Tyler said.
When the highway/utilities superintendent position opened in April 2018, Tyler said, it made sense for him to make the transition and join the department.
“Then when Steve announced his retirement,” Tyler said, “I was excited for the opportunity to take the director’s position.”
Currently, the biggest project underway is the Pleasant Valley Water Treatment Plant upgrade. Concrete is being poured on the foundation and construction will likely pause in February for a few months then restart in the spring.
Tyler said for next season, the department has some paving and sidewalk projects lined up.
“We’ve got a large culvert on Sunset Lake Road that’s in the works, continued work on the stormwater improvements,” he said. “There’s a lot going on right now.”
Tyler notices a big push lately for projects to improve bike and pedestrian safety. He said he’s willing to discuss ideas or issues with people via email or phone calls.
Not much plowing has been needed yet this winter.
“It’s been a pretty tame winter so far,” Tyler said. “We’ve had some ice events. For as little as it feels like winter, we’ve used quite a bit of salt and sand already just because of these ice storms.”
Recently, the department hired former assistant fire chief Pete Lynch as the highway/utilities superintendent.
“That’s exciting,” Tyler said. “I think Pete brings a lot of management experience and his experience in the fire industry, you know, training and safety.”
Tyler doesn’t have been big plans for drastic changes at the department.
“I think the operation is pretty solid,” he said. “I think I look at things through a different lens, just being newer to public works than Steve.”
Tyler said he tries to keep up with new technologies and processes.
Barrett was employed by the town since 1974, including 33 years as a call-firefighter then starting as water pollution operator in 1980, working his way up to become public works director in 1996. In an interview before retiring, he called the public works department “really progressive” and said he wanted to keep it going in that direction.
“It seemed like a good opportunity for me to retire, and plus, Dan has the talent. I’m leaving the department in good hands,” Barrett said. “I think he has a calming demeanor. He doesn’t get excited. He listens to people. It’s very important for us to listen. You know, many times when we’re dealing with someone in the public, it’s a bad day. It could be a wastewater backup in their house, a water break that has caused a lot of damage, so he’s caring. He’s understanding. He’ll break it down and come up with good solutions. You need to be calculating and know what you’re going to do.”