With apologies to John Cougar Mellencamp’s ode to small towns, I, too, come from one of those and shall offer my tribute.
Though not quite the hamlet that’s featured in this issue of Superintendent’s Profile, Pittsfield, MA, where I spent many formative years, lies cradled by the Berkshire Hills on the cusp of the New York State border; and it shares many of the ingredients of a small town with Stark, NY. For example, there are no six degrees of separation in a small town – it’s more like two degrees. If one person likes you, consequently hundreds of other people feel the same way. Conversely, betray one person and you become infamous. Years, even decades after you’ve left the town, people there will talk of you at the proverbial local watering hole because, for better or for worse, they really knew you, just as you really knew them.
Change, too, is traumatic in a small town. After all, people live there because they like constants. I still do. Last year, I visited my hometown, where I’d not been in 12 years, and I stopped by my old brick elementary school. It’s now an apartment building, but there was a tree in the corner of the playground, which, during recess, we used as a “goal” for games of tag. Taller and wider, the tree was still there, and though I know it’s silly that it mattered, the small town in me needed to see the familiar.
Anthony “Tony” Grescheck, superintendent of highways of the Town of Stark, pop. 600, has a challenging job for all these reasons. Just like all of you, he holds a political position in which he must make difficult decisions – some will make people happy, some will make people unhappy. As a result, sometimes he’s popular, sometimes he’s not. But above all else, he knows everyone personally; whether it’s clearing the roads after yet another notorious New York State snowstorm or it’s deciding to pave a dirt road, the choices he makes are done face to face with people whom he can call friends. And we know how hard business decisions can be when they involve people you know very well.
If you prefer to “live and breathe” in a small town, or even if you don’t, you’ll enjoy this month’s snapshot of Stark and its hard working, dedicated superintendent of highways, Tony Grescheck.