Faces of City Hall: Tom Girard, Superintendent of The Department of Public Works
The Glens Falls Department of Public Works is located at 230 Dix Avenue. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM; however, the DPW handles emergency calls 24/7. The Department of Public Works is responsible for all city-owned buildings and grounds, and the maintenance of all city-owned parks, recreation facilities, and green areas within streets. Tom Girard – avid Mets fan and superintendent of the department – has worked for the City of Glens Falls for 11 years. He came to work for the city following a 32-year career working for Albany Engineering.
Girard’s position as Superintendent evolved over time – after being hired by Mayor Jack Diamond as the Field Operations Manager for water and sewers for the city – a role that he is still responsible for today – he would take over the Superintendent role as well in 2021. The position had opened up due to the departure of long term Superintendent Bob Schiavoni – Schiavoni had been in and out of the DPW Superintendent’s seat since 1985.
Girard pointed out that working for the city and working for the private sector have similarities: “You start out with one job and gain more responsibility. Mayor Jack Diamond hired me to become the field operations manager for water and sewer. I worked down in the water and sewer and I still do. I still have that ‘hat’” Girard said.
Girard sees himself continuing in the role as superintendent of the DPW: “Most likely I will work for a few more years, and then think about retirement… I can’t see myself not working, after retirement I would probably like to work part time for a little bit” Girard said.
Girard was born and raised in Glens Falls – he built a house in the east end in 1986, and still lives there today: “37 years I’ve been in the east end, and I know a lot of people.”
Girard enjoys his work, but admits that there are aspects of the work at the DPW that can be challenging… Like emergency calls when a water main breaks in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter when it’s below zero: “I have really been fortunate in the positions that I have had. I have a really great staff and I know that the job is getting done… That makes my job a lot easier. The workers and the supervisors are great” Girard said.
One of the challenges that the DPW faces is the grand patchwork of places that the they are responsible for maintaining: “There are the playgrounds, the recreation facilities, the sidewalks all around the city. The parking lots. There are little pieces of land all around the city and we receive calls regarding the maintenance of them. During the summer when we are busy, I receive 50 to 60 emails a day” he said.
There are also services that the DPW provides to help the community… The DPW provides support to elderly residents, including eight senior citizens’ residences where they shovel the sidewalk; these are residents who meet the age and financial requirements for the service. The DPW also takes care of the “ghost properties” in the city; these are properties that are in the process of foreclosure. They shovel the snow in the winter and mow the grass in the summer, and will also drain the water in these properties so that the pipes won’t freeze. Girard recalled an incident about five years ago where a pipe had burst in a vacant building – because no one was aware that it had happened, the city lost over a million gallons of water in one day.
Girard also has advice for people who are considering working for the DPW: there are currently about thirty positions that are filled at the DPW, but they are always looking to hire. “If you’re looking for a job, do a little research and look at the positions that are available. If you have a CDL license, that’s a bonus. If you don’t have one, we have grants now that will help pay for training. The grant is up to $3,700. The city pays the initial $1,200 for the first prep and permit step, and then $2,500 to the BOCES program for the hands-on training… It’s a pretty intense course… We have three employees who have just finished or are in the process of finishing” Girard said.
There are a variety of opportunities at the DPW at the entry level and more advanced levels alike, and there’s the shadow benefit of being out in the community as well: “The guys here really enjoy getting ‘thank you’ from the community. They go out of their way to help, they really do” Girard said.