'A very difficult decision'

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BRATTLEBORO — Highway and Utilities Superintendent Hannah Tyler was not looking for a job when she was offered the position of director of the Hartford Public Works Department.

"It was a very, very difficult decision for me to make," she told the Reformer. "This came across my desk and I wondered what would happen and things worked out this way."

Tyler said she is very sad to leave Brattleboro and called the town "great" to work for. She said she loved working with her whole crew every single day.

Tyler started as the town highway and utilities superintendent in October 2012. Previously, she worked for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

For now, Tyler will stay in Brattleboro and make the approximately one-hour commute.

"It's right up [Interstate] 91," she said. "And the state does a great job taking care of that."

Tyler is "really excited" to begin working as Hartford's director public works on April 23. Friday was her last day in Brattleboro — "lucky Friday the 13th," she laughed.

Tyler grew up in Bernardston, Mass., and loves living in the region. Saying goodbye has been difficult, she said, as she packed her belongings from the office she has considered home for almost six years.

"I'm really going to miss a lot of people," she said. "I've developed so many professional relationships. It's been very emotional leaving."

Tyler said she has received mixed reactions from those who have heard about her departure.

"Some people are very happy for me but also sad to see me leave," she said. "And maybe there are some who aren't sad to see me leave. I don't know. That happens when you're the boss."

She has overseen about 40 employees with her boss Steve Barrett, director of the Brattleboro Department of Public Works.

Her start at the department came about a year after Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont in August 2011. She helped with the replacement of a bridge on Cook Road and an outfall pipe at the wastewater treatment plant, and drainage improvements on Barrows Road. She said the department just received notification this week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be providing payments for some of those projects.

About four or five years ago, when a big rainstorm hit the town,"We got almost five inches of rain in an hour," Tyler recalled. "It washed the paved bridge deck off Elm Street going from Canal Street down to Flat Street. That was a pretty damaging storm. We had some culvert damage over on West Chestnut Street. It really affected the downtown area."

Tyler said Barrett has been "so supportive." Upon hearing the news of Tyler's new job, Barrett said, he congratulated her.

"That's a huge step," he told the Reformer. "She's done an excellent job here at public works working with me for the last five years. She's going to be missed."

Barrett said Tyler brought a wealth of knowledge to the job, having worked for VTrans and the state of Massachusetts.

"Her focus on traffic safety issues was definitely a benefit to the public and the traveling public, cyclists, pedestrians," Barrett added. "She had a good focus on that along with grants and obtaining funding to support those projects."

Barrett described the highway and utilities superintendent position as "very key and important" to the department. The person who holds it must take into account a lot of different dynamics in order to keep the five divisions within the department operating efficiently, he said.

Town Manager Peter Elwell and Barrett will be looking at the roles and responsibilities of the position before replacing Tyler.

"We're going to see if there are things we can improve," Barrett said. "Just take a good, fresh look at it. The town always does that."

Elwell told the Reformer he is happy for Tyler.

"This is a great professional move for her," Elwell said. "She has earned the opportunity to be a public works director and I believe the town of Hartford will be happy to have provided her that opportunity. Hannah's service to Brattleboro, in what has essentially been the role of assistant public works director, has been outstanding. Both in DPW and on the rest of the town team, we will miss her."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at  cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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