Public works director latest Freeport official to retire

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FREEPORT — Town Engineer and Public Works Director Albert Presgraves is the fourth department head to announce his retirement in less than six months.

Town Manager Peter Joseph announced Presgraves’ retirement at the April 12 Town Council meeting. His last day will formally be June 9.

Former library director Beth Edmonds left in February, former Police Chief Jerry Schofield left in March, and Fire Chief Darrel Fournier announced in February that he will retire in May.

All three spent decades working in Freeport.

“They’ve all been here so long and have so much experience,” Joseph said. “It’s sad for us to see them go, but it’s that time.”

Joseph said none of the departures were sudden or surprising.

“We do have a large number of department heads in the same age range,” he said. “They’ve been very open about what their time lines are.”

Joseph said department heads usually start thinking about retirement two years before they want to leave, and they usually work with the town to have orderly transitions. No one else is expected to retire any time soon, Joseph added.

Presgraves has been with the town since 2002, when he started as the town engineer. Over the years he also filled in as the solid waste director and as a staff person on the Traffic and Parking Committee. In 2011, he also took on the role of public works director.

“Al gets an incredible amount of work done,” Joseph said. “He’s got a full plate doing engineering and public works.”

Joseph said Presgraves oversees the town’s highway and recycling departments and supervises more than a dozen employees.

“A lot of people don’t realize the amount of work he does,” Joseph said.

Presgraves said he enjoys the work and the opportunity to do many different jobs.

“There are always projects that land on my desk that are interesting and challenging,” he said.

Presgraves has offered to keep working part time after June 9 to help train his replacement, but said he will definitely be done working in August. He then plans to sail to the Caribbean with his wife and stay in the Bahamas through the winter.

Joseph said the town hasn’t yet advertised for the opening, but will soon, because there is no interest in the position internally.

It’s hard to find replacements for people who have been with the town for so long, Joseph said. He said he wants to hire people with experience, but at the same time he wants someone who still has several years to dedicate to the position.

“It’s a trade off,” he said. “One of the problems we have, especially with the Police and Fire departments, is that you need someone with a lot of experience.”

Replacements have not yet been hired at those departments, but Lt. Susan Nourse has been filling in as interim police chief until a permanent chief is hired. At the library, Arlene Arris, who had been the director’s assistant, was hired as the new library director in February.

“We’ll be looking for people with experience, so it shouldn’t be a learning experience as much as it’s just working with new people,” he said. “The biggest part will be working with new personalities.”

As much as town employees will miss the retirees, Presgraves said he’ll miss everyone, too.

“I’ll miss all the great people here at Town Hall and all the residents I’ve had the great fortune of interacting with,” he said.

Kate Gardner can reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.