Please join us in celebrating the return of Patch Q&A: a feature in which we allow you to get to know the movers and shakers that help make Easton tick.
Today we'll feature Easton DPW Director David Field,
Patch: What made you want to get into public works?
Field: I’m a civil engineer by training. I began working for the town of Mansifeld when I was still in school and I worked closely with the Public Works Department and did a lot of engineering projects.
I liked it. It was something different every day and a lot of interesting projects. After I graduated, I went to work for Mansfield full time and then I went to Dedham and now I’m here.
Patch: Why did you choose to go into a publicly employed engineer as opposed to private?
Field: I just started out in the public field and I enjoy it. You can do a lot of good.
There’s different pros and cons to both public and private and I’ve just always enjoyed the public side of it.
Patch: What caught your eye about the job opening for the Easton DPW Director?
Field: The job description was a really good fit for me and my experience. It was an opportunity to take a step up and be a little bit closer to home [in Attleboro]. I had been in Dedham for six years at that point.
It peaked my interest and when I came here and interviewed, I found out that there’s a lot of projects going on and it’s a very busy town and I thought it would be a good challenge.
Patch: What kind of challenges have you faced so far?
Field: The main challenge is just trying to get a grip of all the different projects going on.
Any time you change jobs you lose that institutional knowledge. When I was in Mansfield, I could tell you every drain line and sewer line – where they ran and which way they went.
Then I went to Dedham and it was the same thing. It took a while to figure out which streets were which, but after you’ve been there for a while you kind of know everything about them – when they’ve been repaved, when they haven’t been repaved and all the different projects.
I’m at that learning stage again to try to figure out what’s what. That’s my biggest challenge and then we have some large projects going on with the Shovel Shops, North Easton Village infrastructure improvements, Main Street improvements, implemented paving management and growing our GIS system.
Patch: What’s on tap this coming summer?
Field: The pressing projects are the Shovel Shop sewer project – getting that going, and pavement management – implementing a pavement management system for the town to help us prioritize our roadwork.
Those are the two main ones and then there’s probably 150 other smaller projects in some form or fashion.
Patch: What is paving management?
Field: It’s an asset management approach to maintaining our roads. Our roads are probably one of our biggest assets in the town. And, it’s a way to evaluate the roads using an engineering approach to rate the roads and then try to apply the best repair at the right time for each road.
It’s not just which road is in the worst condition. It’s what road is in the worst condition based on the traffic volume – what repair is needed at that time and what the cost of that repair is. It’s a different way of thinking. It’s not a worst first approach anymore. It’s asking what benefit you’re going to get for your road dollars.
Patch: What are the challenges that come with being a Town Engineer to overseeing the entire department? Is that a learning curve?
Field: It is and it isn’t. I’ve been on the engineering side in both of my previous jobs. But, I work so closely with Public Works that there’s not really unanticipated issues. Every town is different, but it’s still the same ball game.
Patch: How do you anticipate seeing things operating in five to 10 years?
Field: That’s a good question. My goals and objective are more on the shorter side right now.
I’ve made some assessments and there is room for improvements in various items. One of them is GIS and the way we do business. Right now, there is a lot of paper records – or even computer records - that aren’t connected with anything. I’d like to migrate the work flow in not only my department but a lot of the departments in town to GIS based work flow where we can all share information and we can collaborate information based on our GIS system so police and fire can have information about a parcel or some kind of attribute that we have. And, we can also have information about it.
Patch: Is it difficult working within a limited town budget?
Field: No matter what field you’re in, you always have a budget. Whether you’re the Red Sox or the Orioles or public or private, you have a budget and you have to live within it.
If we had a bigger budget we’d be able to get more done and make more people happy. But, with our current staffing levels, we probably wouldn’t be able to administer a bigger budget right now responsibly.
Everything we do now, I think we have the right sized budget for the amount of people we have.
Patch: Anything you’d like to convey to the people of Easton?
Field: If they have any issues, let us know about it.
One thing I’ve found in the various jobs I’ve had in the past is I’ll get a call from someone saying ‘this has been going on for 10 years and you haven’t done it yet.’
Well, if we don’t know about it, we can’t address it.
So, I can’t promise we can address it, but the only way we can determine if we can is if we know about it. So, if there is an issue, let us know. We’re always available. The – those questions are great. At the same time, we can always answer those questions. If anyone has a question, they can call us, they can come to the office or send an email and we’ll get back to them as soon as possible.