Next year, Albert Bangert will be making furniture in his studio full time, concerning himself with the intricacies of period woodworking rather than the day-to-day operation of Scituate’s infrastructure.
The change is one that Bangert said he is looking forward to upon his retirement, which takes effect Sunday, after 5½ years as the director of the town’s Department of Public Works.
“I’m not anxious to drop things and run,” said the 67-year-old. “It’s a matter of ensuring there is a good transition, to make sure someone can come over.”
Although Bangert will take a brief respite this week, he has already agreed to serve as a consultant for ongoing projects, keeping things working smoothly while his successor — as yet unknown — gets up to speed.
Yet no matter the distance, Bangert is embedded everywhere. His voice directs callers to various DPW divisions on the automated phone system. His direction and knowledge have been behind a host of notable town projects — the wind turbine, expansion of the sewer system, the solar array, a $22 million water-pipe replacement project, new sidewalks and streets throughout Scituate.
Off the top of her head, Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi can add dozens more to the list, including the turnaround of the transfer station’s operations, which used to lose money and create problems, and a new process for accepting private ways as public streets.
Not to mention a solution to the decaying dam at Hunter’s Pond, which will be torn down in order to restore a river for spawning fish, and water-conservation efforts that have, along with a fish-run project, returned herring to the Herring Brook for the first time in 20 years.
Plus, there’s Bangert’s role in “improving snow operations by realigning routes and going to all salt, long-term inventory, and a plan for sea wall maintenance and foreshore protections,” Vinchesi said with a laugh, adding that she could go on all day. “I’ve said this publicly and I’ll say it again: [He’s] probably one of the finest managers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Finding a replacement will, not surprisingly, be no easy task. Vinchesi has been interviewing candidates, and expects to make a decision within weeks.
There are no plans for an interim director, Vinchesi said; it will be like Bangert is just on vacation.
“He will be available if needed, but he’s participating in the interviews, so he will be very involved,” she said.
According to Vinchesi, Bangert already stayed on 2½ years longer than anticipated.
The Union College graduate, who received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1968, is used to moving from job to job, after routinely shifting roles during a 32-year career at Procter & Gamble. His résumé at the company includes stints in Massachusetts, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, England, and Germany, mainly in manufacturing management.
“In that whole career, I never had a job longer than five years,” Bangert said. “We would change assignments. The idea was it was good for the individual to have fresh work, and good for the job to have a fresh person come in. That’s what motivated me here. I’ve done this for five years, and I’m ready to focus on different things in my life.”
Bangert didn’t step right into the Scituate role either. After Procter & Gamble, he studied furniture making at the North Bennet Street School in Boston for two years, ran his own furniture business — Sunnycroft Woodworks — for four, and worked as an ombudsman for the MBTA’s Scituate project for another two.
Bangert became the town’s DPW director in 2008, shortly after longtime director Anthony Antoniello retired.
Kevin Cafferty, Scituate’s town engineer, has worked under Bangert for four years, and is quick to compliment his tenacity for solving problems and his willingness to listen.
“You don’t feel like you’re working for him, you’re working with him,’’ Cafferty said. “He’s right involved also, jumping right into any of the problems or anywhere he has to be.”
Bangert is seemingly everywhere at once, bounding around Town Hall during office hours and meetings, showing up at ribbon cuttings before checking on construction projects, before making a trip to the highway or water division for an update.
According to Selectman Tony Vegnani, that level of interest and energy has always characterized Bangert, even during his days as a volunteer on the town’s Advisory Committee, which he served on from 2000 to 2004, and the Zoning Board of Appeals, from 2004 to 2008.
“He brings such a level of professionalism to the job,” Vegnani said. “I think he’s taken his background and work experience and brought it to the town government in simple things. . . I find he’s open minded. He’s unbiased in what the projects are. . . he generally cares a ton about the town.”
Though Bangert will be much missed, Vegnani wasn’t concerned about a transition.
“I think he’s raised the standard, and put policies and procedures in place in our department that will continue on even when he’s gone,” Vegnani said.
Though he may be stepping down, Bangert will be far from gone. Even in his shop, toiling away with a different kind of focus, Bangert said, he would be right down the road.