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Family was big draw for new Greenfield DPW director

GREENFIELD — The town’s new public works director was born in Greenfield and spent his early years here, and that was a “big draw” for his taking the job.

The town will pay Arthur Baker $89,000 a year to replace Sandra Shields when she retires at the end of February. Baker, 42, will begin in the position on Feb. 19 and will take over completely on March 1. Late last year Shields announced her plans to retire before spring. She said she will stay through the end of February to help with the transition.

“All of my family ties are in that area,” said Baker, who is currently serving as director of public works, solid waste and recycling in Branford, Conn. “Although I know I have a tough act to follow with the exceptional accomplishments by Sandra and her team, I look forward to working with the staff and the community to continue to provide the level of service expected, and work on the challenges facing the Town of Greenfield.”

Baker, who was born in Greenfield, said he moved around when he was younger, but has decided to come back to where his mother, father, sister, and other relatives have settled.

“That was a big draw to the area, and so was the very efficient department Sandra and the town have set up,” he said. “It provides the most efficient product to the citizens of Greenfield.”

Baker, who has more than 10 years of experience in public works, said he’s happy he’ll be working with Shields for a couple of weeks.

“I’ll get a quick crash course from someone who has a lot of knowledge,” said Baker. “I’ll be able to start in the job with a lot of background.”

Shields said she will have next year’s budget to the mayor by the end of this month and will be discussing specifics with Baker when he gets to Greenfield.

Baker said he has a lot of experience in creating public works budgets for municipalities.

“That’s probably my Number One asset,” he said.

Baker, who lives and works along the shore in Connecticut, said Greenfield’s elevation is another reason he wanted to take the job.

“I have a lot of experience with storms,” he said. “The storms, like Irene, that hit Greenfield hard, were catastrophic to the town I work in.”

Baker said that experience will also be very helpful in Greenfield.

“I hope Greenfield never gets hit that hard, but if it does, I’ll know what to do,” he said. “I also look forward to working with Greenfield’s police, fire and other emergency people.”

Baker will start with the town with a salary of $89,000 a year. Shields is currently making $87,867 a year.

Shields, who started with the town’s public works department 38 years ago, said after spending some time with Baker, she believes he is a “perfect fit for Greenfield.”

Shields, who replaced John F. Bean as Greenfield’s public works director in 2007, said Baker has a lot of energy and, she believes, will be fair, but firm.

“He has a strong connection to the area,” said Shields. “That’s good.”

Baker received a degree in civil engineering from the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

“He will be able to continue Sandy’s success and move the department forward in these challenging economic times,” said Mayor William Martin.

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