DRACUT — From his corner office inside Dracut Town Hall, Town Manager Dennis Piendak can see everyone who enters and exits the building — providing, of course, that he is looking out the window.
One is more than likely to find Piendak with his face buried in a document of some kind as he pores over budget reports, trying to locate those precious extra few dollars that can result in savings to the town. His financial prowess has been widely heralded. He is the envy of town managers and administrators throughout the Merrimack Valley. High praise has been heaped upon Piendak from all quarters for his role in keeping the town’s fiscal ship afloat, especially during the recent economic downturn.
The Piendaks — Dennis, Sharon and their two children — have been Dracut residents since 1986 when he was hired as only the second town manager in Dracut’s history. When he steps down on Nov. 15 after 27 years at the helm, there will be many who have worked under the same roof, and who will probably have to admit, “Dennis, we hardly knew ye.”
The 65-year-old Piendak holds his cards close to the vest — always has. Several longtime Town Hall employees, when asked this week, had to concede that they could not even say to which political party Piendak belongs.
“He never tips his hand,” said one exasperated worker, thumbing through the town’s resident listing to retrieve the information. “He’s unenrolled! Figures.”
Piendak served two years in the U.S. Army before working as a city administrator in Cumberland, Md., for five years. He spent the next 10 years as assistant city manager and treasurer in Greenbelt, Md., before arriving in Dracut, where he found a town in fiscal chaos.
Things had to get worse before getting better. In 1989, budget restraints forced the town to close its library and one of its fire stations. But on Piendak’s watch, the town was able to complete a $10 million high school renovation in 1995 and build a new junior high school, two new fire stations, a new library and a new police station. Much of it has been done within the town’s budget and without the need for a Proposition 2 1/2 override.
One extracurricular activity for which Piendak is well known, however, is his incredible golf skill. He has qualified on several occasions for the prestigious Lowell Men’s City Golf Tournament, the only city or town manager ever to do so.
Dennis and Sharon’s two children are now grown. His son lives in Westford and has two young daughters, upon whom Piendak dotes. Their daughter is a guidance counselor at a parochial high school in Boston. The Piendaks will celebrate their 43rd wedding anniversary in September. Bet you didn’t know that.
Q: What is the last book you read just for fun?
A: “My reading of late has been pretty much confined to newspapers. Although I do enjoy reading historical novels, as well as (James A.) Michener’s tomes.”
Q: What is the last movie you saw in the theater?
A: “I recently saw four movies and each was an enjoyable delight in its own way; ‘Lincoln,’ ‘Parental Guidance,’ ‘Les Miserables,’ and ‘Guilt Trip.'”
Q: What is your favorite food to order when you go out to eat?
A: “Fried clams.”
Q: What kind of job does Dennis Piendak have in the parallel universe? In other words, if you weren’t a town manager, what would you like to have done for a living?
A: “I had my first internship with the city manager of Cape May, N.J., when I was 19 years old after my freshman year in college and I really have never thought about doing anything else.”
Q: What historical figure, past or present, dead or alive, would you like to have met?
A: “(Golfer) Bobby Jones. I’d like to ask him how he accomplished what he did with the conditions and equipment he had in his era and how could he just walk away from the world stage at, I believe it was age 30.”
Q: Do you have a “Must-See TV” program?
A: “There’s no one particular show, however, I do like crime dramas like the ‘Law and Order’ series, ‘NCIS’ or ‘Person of Interest.'”
Q: What’s on your iPod, Beatles or Stones?
A: “I don’t have an iPod. I’m still trying to figure out the cell phone. When I listen to music, it’s easy listening music like Magic 106.7 FM. But I still remember the Sunday evening in 1964 watching TV at my aunt and uncle’s house when the Beatles made their first American appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.”
Q: Besides golf, what is your favorite sport, either to watch or play?
A: “Other than golf, my athletic prowess is confined to watching the (Boston) Red Sox.”
Q: Where’s the most beautiful place you’ve been?
A: “The back nine at Four Oaks (formerly Meadow Creek Golf Course in Dracut.) Until you’ve been there you don’t believe there is such topography and natural beauty in Dracut.”
Q: What’s your idea of the perfect day off?
A: “A round of golf in the morning, some time with my wife in the afternoon, dinner with an adult beverage or two, and then three games of cribbage. Sharon and I play three games of cribbage after dinner when I’m home. The series stands at 1,684 to 1,656 — but who is who is proprietary.”