DRACUT — When the snow is piling up on Dracut’s streets, the leaves are falling down, the streets need sweeping or the grass on the athletic fields is growing tall, Mike Buxton, Department of Public Works director, is the guy that makes all the right things happen.
Of course, he has a little help from his friends — a crew of 23.
Buxton has been with Dracut’s DPW for 21 years, starting as a backhoe driver after previously working in his family’s construction business, B&B Construction in North Chelmsford. While driving the backhoe he went to school to earn a degree in business administration in anticipation of some day taking over the director’s position.
Now in the corner office, the Chelmsford native, Dracut resident, father and grandfather calls the shots, answers the calls, and smiles a little when he rides around town and sees Dracut’s beautiful parks and fields filled with people of all ages getting exercise and having fun.
He spoke recently about a challenging task important to him and many others in town right now — spring cleanup.
Q: What’s more of a challenge, winter cleanup after a major snowstorm or spring cleanup?
A: Spring cleanup, definitely. All the sports groups want to get out and practice, but the New England weather doesn’t always cooperate. This town is a residential-based community and people like to get outdoors. They have spring fever and want to get out there, and I don’t blame them. But we have three months of winter to clean up after, and everyone wants it done in one week. If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and it rains at 6 in the morning, you can’t cut the grass and you lose another day.
Q: With Dracut’s parks and fields growing in numbers, have you added to staff?
A: No, we have not. The manager has let us maintain the staff as is. We’ve had 23 for the last three years, and three of those are mechanics that take care of the vehicle maintenance. This includes the Highway Department, Tree and Parks. But the men do a great job. They just adjust to doing whatever has to be done. We have a good staff and I’m very happy with those men. And my secretary, Donna Douglas, is great, too. She makes my job easier.
Q: When is it the worst time to be Mike Buxton, the director of the Department of Public Works?
A: I don’t think there ever is. You have to like this type of work to do it, and you have to be adaptable. If you weren’t, it would drive you nuts. I enjoy it. I enjoy the people. I enjoy the work.You just have to flexible and make the changes that need to be made as you go along.
Q: With the town budget cutbacks, have you had to work more with less?
A: Yes, but the town manager has been good to us with the budget. We’ve had pretty steady funding. He understands that the parks are important and people want to get out and use them. We’ll move personnel around and make it work, whatever needs to be done. When you have Veterans Park that cost close to $3.5 million to build, and now Dillon McAnespie Park, $2 million, you have to maintain them.You can’t let them run down. It’s a constant battle, but we’re winning.
Q: Is there a sense of satisfaction when you see a group of kids playing sports on a perfectly manicured field?
A: Yes, sure there is. It’s great when I look at Veterans Park and see a vast sea of green. And I hear it from the employees, too, how much they like to see the kids out playing on the fields. We have a small staff, and these guys really have to hustle to get it done. But they definitely get a sense of satisfaction out of the job that they do, and we hope that people appreciate it.