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Public grounds manager digs his work

Even at home, there’s no rest for Dave Pinsonneault, the Lexington, Mass. superintendent of public grounds. Pinsonneault might be out pruning his bushes or mowing his lawn, but he’ll still get his share of good-natured razzing from his neighbors to make sure his lawn is green and trim – he is after, all, a public grounds manager.
But the easygoing Pinsonneault says that keeping his Seekonk, Mass., yard maintained is an easy task, compared to the responsibility of overseeing approximately 630 acres of town land, maintaining athletic fields, playgrounds, and conservation areas, and assisting with town special events. With over 10,000 trees, Lexington is also designated as a Tree City, USA, with responsibility for the arbor upkeep again, on Pinsonneault’s shoulders. All of this combines into a 24/7 job that involves maintaining positive relationships with the town committees, other municipal departments, and of course, the public, who might call to complain about a broken gate on the bike path or uneven playground surface.
"I could be out on a site looking at a tree one moment, and checking out a cemetery the next," says Pinsonneault, who is a certified recreation and park professional as well as sports field manager, two credentials that require certain education and professional status as well as passing a national exam.

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Pinsonneault is just one of thousands of public works employees who work for municipal, and state governments, helping operate, build, and maintain infrastructure. Although many communities, including Lexington, have suffered cutbacks in local public works funding, federal stimulus funds will boost national infrastructure projects, including highway and bridge construction repair, clean drinking water improvements, mass transit additions, and more.
The Lexington DPW (Department of Public Works) recently moved to a brand-new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building that replaces an old barn. "Lexington is more progressive than some other towns, and now we have lots of resources we can draw on under one roof, which makes it easy to coordinate tasks, whether I need a loader from the highway department, or information from the recreation department," says Pinsonneault.
Pinsonneault started his career 20 years ago with a degree in forestry. He launched his own landscape company, but found he wanted a more stable position and started working for the town of Mansfield, where he received training on everything from supervising and budgeting to the maintenance of sports fields. "This career requires an interest in working outdoors, and a willingness to do public service – and a background in agronomy, turf science, or forest management is helpful," says Pinsonneault.
Q: What sort of job opportunities are available in the department of public works?
A: Under the DPW umbrella falls positions in areas ranging from engineering and environmental services to highways, equipment and drains, as well as water and sewer and transportation. Entry-level slots range include laborers who work on raking or watering, to trash pick-up. You can work your way up by watching how things are maintained and understanding why tasks  are done in a certain way, such as care of the athletic fields.
Q: What’s your busiest time of year?
A: Springtime is hectic, because there’s leaf clean-up, we need to get the baseball and softball fields ready for play, and, of course, the Patriot’s Day parade and road race is a big push. Staff has to be available for everything from setting up the sound system and bleachers, to putting up barriers, and cleaning up afterwards.
Q: What’s the oddest request or question you’ve ever received?
A: We get all sorts of requests. I had to go out once and check out a very swampy area to see if it was feasible to put a ball field there. Let’s just say that it didn’t lend itself to be converted to a playing area. 
Q: What’s your wife’s biggest complaint about your job?
A: She doesn’t like that I’m gone for the weekend snowstorms, and she’s left to shovel our driveway.
Q: Do you mind mowing your lawn on your time off?
A: With the union, I’m not allowed to do those types of things, I just coordinate it. So it’s sort of a relief to come home and actually do that type of work.


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