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Deerfield highway director Shawn Patterson leaves town a better place

  • Deerfield Highway Director Shawn Patterson is leaving for a job on the Cape.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Deerfield Highway Director Shawn Patterson is leaving for a job on the Cape. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Highway Director Shawn Patterson, left, is leaving hius position as Highway Director in Deerfield being replaced by Kevin Scarborough with Michael Phillips staying on.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Highway Director Shawn Patterson, left, is leaving hius position as Highway Director in Deerfield being replaced by Kevin Scarborough with Michael Phillips staying on. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Deerfield Highway Director Shawn Patterson is leaving for a job on the Cape.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Highway Director Shawn Patterson, left, is leaving hius position as Highway Director in Deerfield being replaced by Kevin Scarborough with Michael Phillips staying on.  Recorder/Paul Franz

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Two and a half years ago, the Deerfield Highway Department was working from an underheated, dilapidated building.

Though it was 2011, the department digs were better suited to the 1950s. On top of that, the transfer station was $47,000 in the hole.

That all changed when the selectmen hired a Cape Cod resident as the town’s new highway director, charged with leading the construction of the new highway facility on Merrigan Way.

On June 25, Shawn Patterson will leave South Deerfield for a job as assistant director in the town of Marshfield, where he will oversee an 80-person department. Patterson submitted his resignation to the town on Tuesday

Patterson’s decision was based on a desire to be closer to family and finding the right opportunity.

“I came here with the idea that I’d get the building done. I like a challenge,” Patterson said. “As time went on, I thought I’d stay. Family won out. But it had to be the right job. It was a hard decision to make.”

As Patterson trades the country dirt roads and farm fields of Franklin County for the rushing blue ocean and sandy coastline of Plymouth County, his colleagues say he leaves behind a better town.

“Shawn has spearheaded many different projects, pushed the highway department equipment into the 21st century, and ultimately continued a proactive organization,” said Police Chief John Paciorek Jr. “Shawn is a person with staunch principles, drive, determination; (he’s) devoted, hard-working, and unwavering. From the management or department head perspective, this has allowed the highway department to thrive under his leadership.”

David “Bud” Driver, who works for Patterson at the transfer station, said, “He accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. He was here all for the benefit of the future of the town.”

Bringing his quick wit and professionalism, Patterson had arrived in Deerfield in December 2011 with a background in public works management for the town of Bourne and the Coast Guard.

He would oversee a total 15 employees from the highway crew to the transfer station and wastewater treatment.

His first task was to get the highway department a new facility — an unfilled goal hanging over the town for the past 24 years. Quickly, Patterson organized the old building committee and found the architects of the first design plan.

The new garage is Patterson’s proudest achievement.

“I am leaving the building to these guys that deserve it,” Patterson said. “I think I got the biggest smile when I saw these guys walk into this building. They so much deserve it.”

In his short time span, Patterson also organized for the department to get better equipment and restructured and empowered the department so different employees have different roles. For instance, Kevin Scarborough became facilities manager.

Patterson helped usher the highway department into the 21st century, his colleagues say.

“We came from working out of a pickup truck to the 21st century,” said selectmen’s Chairman Carolyn Ness. “I feel we’re in better shape than we’ve ever been.”

Building Inspector Richard Calisewski said Patterson has made many good changes from changing the snow plow route to making the transfer station efficient.

“I think Shawn did a good job when he was here. I feel I’m losing part of the team,” Calisewski said.

From the improvement in the productivity of the roads to vehicle maintenance, Ness said, for the first time the town can be ahead of the curve instead of being reactive.

“We really appreciate what he’s done,” Ness said. “He helped build a garage and made sure that it was done on time and under budget. He transitioned the highway crew into a management style that made them responsible for what job they were doing. It really makes a difference.”

While Patterson’s hometown was two hours away, he quickly became part of the Deerfield team.

“It was an adjustment, but people like Mike (Phillips) and the guys here made it easy,” Patterson said. “We’re a family. That was said to me when I first got here. We’re family and we want to find a great fit.”

“No one ever had my back like Shawn has,” Phillips, the foreman, said. “Shawn has made it easier for me. It’s easier to instruct people when you have a guy like Shawn backing you up. That little confidence I have makes my job a lot easier.”

Scarborough said Patterson’s resignation is a real loss to the town because of his experience and what he accomplished.

“It’s been great working with Shawn. He looks out for what’s best for the town and employees,” Scarborough said.

Patterson’s departure requires the town to fill another department head position just as it finished hiring a new town clerk and town accountant. The selectmen are also in the process of searching for a new town administrator.

Meanwhile, Patterson has recommended the facilities director, Kevin Scarborough, become the interim highway director — a recommendation the selectmen are considering.

“I don’t see any reason why (Scarborough as interim) wouldn’t happen,” said Ness. “We have to take care of the town administrator first and get started on the budget process.”

The selectmen still have to officially vote on hiring Scarborough as an interim director.

Patterson is also recommending Phillips, a 30-year foreman for the town, become assistant superintendent. The town would have to restructure the department to create the position.

“Mike has been here for 30 years,” Patterson said. “He’s been my right-hand man. If it wasn’t for Mike, we wouldn’t have been able to put so much into the building. He deserves to be reclassified.”

Patterson will be back in town soon enough. On July 25, Patterson’s band, Afterthought, a popular band on Cape Cod, is playing on the town common as part of the Deerfield Summer Concert Series. It is scheduled for 6:30 to 8 p.m.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com Or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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