© The Stoneham Independent
STONEHAM, MA – Town Administrator Dennis Sheehan has chosen veteran municipal engineer and public works manager Brett Gonsalves as Stoneham’s newest DPW director.
During a Select Board meeting in Town Hall, Sheehan told the elected officials that Gonsalves, a lifelong Woburnite, emerged as a clear favorite for the key managerial post after two rounds of interviews with local officials and an expert panel that included Watertown DPW Superintendent Jerry Mee Jr. and Westford Highway Superintendent Richard Barrett.
Currently working as the operations manager for Danvers’ DPW, Gonsalves beat out more than 26 other candidates vying for the position. He is scheduled to begin work in Stoneham next month.
“I’m happy to announce that Brett Gonsalves has been named public works director and will be starting in June. He’s a very-well rounded individual and spent a great deal of time speaking about implementing positive changes, transparency, and new technology in the workplace.”
With more than 30 years experience in municipal government, Gonsalves served as the longtime assistant city engineer for the City of Woburn, where he also worked as the community’s geographic information system (GIS) coordinator.
He also worked for the Town of Wilmington, before accepting his current job as the operations manager for Danvers’ DPW.
Gonsalves will be taking the leadership reins from Grover, who was Stoneham’s longest-serving department head when he retired last winter. After submitting his retirement papers, the former DPW head, who departed Stoneham along with the department’s two other senior managers, agreed to continue leading the workforce on an interim basis as a paid consultant.
The new public safety head, besides having an opportunity to pick the DPW’s next generation of upper-tier leaders, will also be taking charge as Stoneham creates a new townwide facilities and procurement department. That transition is expected to partially alleviate some of the understaffed DPW’s day-to-day responsibilities and free-up manpower for other job duties.
Addressing the Select Board this week, the Woburn native said he was excited for the opportunity to work in a community right next to his hometown.
“Stoneham is a fantastic community, and I look forward to serving with all of you,” he said.
In February, news that Grover had unexpectedly submitted his resignation months earlier fueled wild speculation across the community about the stability of the public safety department. At the time, the grizzled DPW worker suggested his sudden retirement decision was rooted in an years-long feud with several present and past town leaders, including Select Board veteran Caroline Colarusso.
For years now, the DPW workforce, which never recovered from the massive rounds of budget cuts and layoffs that occurred in the early 2000s, has faced mounting criticism from the previous Boards of Selectmen and the general public.
Grover, as the face of the department, increasingly found himself at the center of that storm as he defended DPW practices that ranged from mundane crosswalk and street painting projects to the department's method of charging so-called "indirect costs" against Stoneham's Water and Sewer Enterprise accounts.
At the height of that conflict in 2015, as Colarusso and former Selectmen Ann Marie O'Neill and Thomas Boussy regularly questioned the day-to-day operations at the DPW, Grover lodged a harassment complaint against the board. He later withdrew that complaint.
At one time, the public works department had a full-time workforce of more than 60 employees. However, in the wake of a series of financial cutbacks instituted the early-to-mid 2000s, the DPW today has just 29 employees.
The longest-serving department head in Stoneham for some time, Grover has insisted the practices he is being chastised for engaging in — such as billing water service customers for the work hours of regular DPW employees — were instituted as the result of management directives handed down to him by previous Boards of Selectmen.
Former Town Administrator David Ragucci, not to mention a number of former selectmen and Finance Board members, acknowledged Stoneham's leaders more than a decade ago made a conscious decision to prevent further DPW cuts by backloading personnel and some equipment expenses into the water and sewer departments.