Northfield looks to improve Highway Department retention

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 09-22-2023 1:17 PM

NORTHFIELD — With turnover rates higher in the Highway Department than in other municipal departments, officials are exploring ways to improve retention while they look to fill the latest vacancy.

“I think the number is up to at least 10 [resignations] since I’ve been on this board,” said Selectboard Chair Alex Meisner, who was elected in 2018. “No other department has had this issue.”

The conversation this week stemmed from a resignation request from Austin Jenkins, who was appointed to the maintenance/driver/laborer position in May.

“This is too bad,” said Meisner, after reviewing Jenkins’ letter of resignation. “I’m disappointed this keeps happening; it’s like a pattern at this point.”

Meisner advocated for exit interviews, noting that they “don’t seem to happen.” Town Administrator Andrea Llamas said while exit interviews can’t be forced, she does reach out.

“The marketplace for highway people is just as problematic as public safety,” added Selectboard member Barbara “Bee” Jacque. “Everyone is moving around to the next opportunity.”

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Llamas said she spoke with Highway Superintendent Thomas Walker about this position in particular.

“We’re looking for some different structure to this position and possibly even a different set of duties,” Llamas explained. “I’m asking him to look at the job description to see how he might change it to edit it and revise it.”

Llamas noted that if there are proposed changes to Highway Department positions, the changes will come before the Selectboard at a future meeting.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.