Just call him the “great communicator.”
Doug Warren, highway superintendent of the Village of Pawling is a self-proclaimed orator and from day one on the job he has made it his mission to improve communication within his department and the village.
He has succeeded.
Doug was first elected street foreman (aka highway superintendent) in 2004. Prior to that, he held myriad jobs, all of which led him to the Village of Pawling.
“I was a printing pressman with Western Publishing Company in Poughkeepsie, New York, for 15 years until the company moved out West. From there I got involved in the water and sewer business, which is how I got here,” Doug recalled. “I worked for a subcontractor [environmental consultants] somewhere around 1993. They put me through some training and then sent me off to run the sewer plant for the Town and the Village of Pawling. I stayed with them for six years.
“At the same time I was working side-by-side with the highway department. The opening came up for a crew member in 2002, so I took it. I held that position for three years before being promoted to street foreman. I replaced Hubert Good, who held the position for 10 years and left some big shoes to fill. I am happy to say we did a good job of filling them.”
For Doug becoming a highway superintendent seemed to be his destiny.
“I always had an interest in building maintenance and transportation. I was inquisitive about building and maintaining roads and keeping them workable and accessible. I also have a unique ability to communicate well with others. That helps in any job but especially as street superintendent.”
It was Doug’s experience with the sewer operations that proved to be the most helpful.
“They had problems in the village with broken sewer lines and connections and odors so you blended right in because you knew what had to be done and you had experience.”
Born in Redhook, New York, Doug has been married to his wife, Laura, for 23 years. They have a 14-year-old son Matthew.
“We moved to Wappingers Falls in 1990. The move was purely for economic reasons. We found something we could afford at the same time we were able to stay in Dutchess County. We like it down here and were lucky enough to drop anchor.”
Doug also enjoys putting his communication skills to good use when he’s off the clock.
“I’ve been involved with all kinds of civic organizations. It sounds crazy, but I like hearing from people who have a problem. Quite some time ago I put together a group called Dutchess County Young Republicans. I served as its president for four years. We started with a handful of members and within a few years expanded to 558. We published 50 copies of a one-page newsletter that evolved into a 27-page publication that is printed every three months. That organization still exists. I am also a member of the Dutchess County Republican Committee and I sit on the Zoning Board of Appeals for the Town of Wappingers.”
Serving at the pleasure of the Village of Pawling’s Board of Trustees, Doug recently was appointed to his fourth one-year term.
As for life after this, Doug confesses his ultimate dream is “to move out West and set up a hunting ranch. I have hunted, trapped and fished for over 30 years growing up.” He is quick to add, however, that he is in no hurry to hang up his hat as street foreman.
“I would like to stay here and work for the village as long as I can. It keeps me young. I am here with the godsend of the village board and the support of the residents. As long as we do a good job we will be here for as long as they want us.”
Getting the Job Done
The Village of Pawling Highway Department is in charge of maintaining 11.4 lane mi. of town road. Of those, two are gravel. During the winter months that translates into four plowing routes that take several hours to complete. The village also is responsible for taking care of two small dirt roads.
“One is like going up the side of a mountain, like the HoChiMinh Trail,” Doug said, kiddingly.
If that’s not enough, Doug and his crew are in charge of the Metro North Parking lot for rail commuters located in the center of the village.
“It is our job to get things completely cleaned and available for commuters by 4 a.m. Depending on when the snow hits … we always have to keep that in mind. It’s like someone raises a gate. They want to park their vehicles and board the train because their job depends on it. So we have to get there and make sure it’s open, plowed, salted and sanded. Thankfully, that is a demand we seem to meet quite well.”
In addition, the highway department is responsible for maintaining Slocum Cemetery, located on the east side of the village. Upkeep includes mowing, weed whacking, cleaning up graffiti caused by vandals and repairing any damage to the surrounding stonewall fence. Slocum was a prominent family in the village many years ago. Most of their family members and Revolutionary War heroes are buried there.
Doug gets help from his five full-time employees who keep those roads safe for the town’s 2,233 residents. Key staff includes Jim Greges, lead man (deputy superintendent) and mechanic; Jim Brill, Preston Vincent, Francis Lansing and Tom Berdock.
When it comes to that crew Doug has nothing but praise.
“My guys are unique in a number of ways. They work well together and they all wear many hats. Some of them joined the street department never having worked on a water leak before so that’s a new hat for them. They learn. That goes for all of us. We learn something new by doing it.
“There are only six of us and I wouldn’t ask any of them to do something I wouldn’t do myself. Usually, I’m right in the hole with them — digging, placing a new water line or sewer hookup, whatever needs to be done. We work as a tight knit group. A lot of times you don’t see that.”
The highway department functions on a total operating budget of $321,438, which includes salaries and benefits for employees and an annual CHIPS allocation of $34,568.
The highway department’s facilities consist of one garage with three bays constructed in the 1980s. There is an upstairs storage space that houses the water and sewer maintenance equipment, including new pipes, water connections, fittings and valves.
“I would love to have another garage because we are cramped for space,” Doug said, “but it is efficient for now. It’s centrally located within the village and we can keep about 85 percent of our equipment under the roof. That doesn’t leave too much staying outside. My office — or “my little bungalow” as I call it — is in there, too. It’s small but it works.”
As for a salt/sand shed, the village has a municipal agreement with the Town of Pawling to share the town’s supply. The shed is located approximately 2 mi. from Doug’s digs.
To get the job done the highway department uses a variety of equipment that includes:
1991 Chevy pickup
1985 Ford dump truck
1998 Chevy dump truck
2000 Ford 4-ton dump truck
2001 Ford F350 pickup
2002 Big Tex trailer
2006 GMC dump truck
2005 Old Dominion Brush Company leaf remover trailer
GMC 4500 truck
2006 Fisher snowplows
While there is no pressing need for new equipment, Doug does have a “wish list.” He hopes to add a skid steer with some type of sidewalk cleaner or plow to help with maintenance, a boom mower and a small farm tractor.
To acquire new vehicles Doug must submit a list to the Board of Trustees for approval each year.
“Usually, many items are listed then we try to narrow it down to the most important ones, those we desperately need. The board has been very cooperative. There is good communication between us. As a result, the village government has shown us the support we need. That’s very important.”
When it comes to making new purchases Doug has some concerns regarding the technological advances reflected in today’s equipment.
“It is easier to operate but like everything else, with new technology comes bigger costs. Training also is a factor because while it may be easier to operate you still have to know how to do it. Instead of having manual levers you may have push buttons. It’s a whole new way. You have to remember that new doesn’t mean it will work better. Unfortunately, in some areas they don’t build trucks or plows like they used to, such as metal thickness. In many cases, steel has been replaced with plastic.”
Maybe that is why Doug prides himself on his department’s strong vehicle maintenance program.
“I started the program when I first took over. Whenever we have a down day, a rainy day when we can’t do much work outside we pull maintenance,” he said. “By doing that we are able to extend the life on everything from lawnmowers to heavy trucks. Our goal is to keep our vehicles as long as possible. They’re expensive and the taxpayers appreciate our efforts because they are the ones footing the bill. When residents come in to the garage they are amazed at the condition of the equipment. We are all proud of that.”
All in a Day’s Work
Doug’s day begins at approximately 5:30 a.m. when he makes his “Hubie run” (named for his predecessor).
“I know the village didn’t disappear overnight but I’ll run all the streets throughout the village and check for down trees or power lines, water leaks, sewer odors, anything that is out of the ordinary. That takes a good hour. If we can catch [those things] early, before traffic starts and people begin using the facilities, it makes our life a bit easier. Three out of the five days I spot something.”
This time of year Doug and his men normally would be plowing and salting roads. Instead, due to an almost snow-less winter thus far, they have been performing street maintenance, cleaning catch basins, patching roads, catching up on painting, inspecting signs and ensuring that fire hydrants are properly marked for when those snowplows finally start their engines.
The highway department’s responsibilities also include maintaining village streets, roads and sidewalks; mowing lawns, trimming trees, picking up brush; handling garbage pickup; sweeping sidewalks in the business district; and maintaining all sewer and water lines.
“Water seems to be our biggest headache. The lines are old. We’ve updated between 45 and 50 percent of the water in the village as far as replacing lines. The same with the sewer, although those lines are in better shape. They are younger but you still have a problem every now and then,” said Doug.
Those aging water lines were what gave Doug his most memorable job experience.
“About one year ago, we had an incident where a 16-inch water main broke and we totally lost water service for the village,” he recalled. “It was completely dry; 550,000 gallons of water was gone. The cause of the break was attributed to old lines. The ground shifted, gave way and cracked.
“The situation required a major coordination effort. Call the right people at the right time. Get tractor trailers up here with water tanks to refill our storage facility. We were able to get in touch with those we needed to and they worked side-by-side with the village crew and government and the problem was resolved. It took about nine hours to restore service. It sounds like it was a nightmare but actually it was well coordinated.”
What is the most challenging part of his job?
“To be able to stay on top without sinking,” Doug admitted. “I document a lot. I have my own log and write down what was accomplished during the day and what we didn’t get to. The challenge comes with making sure everyone is happy — the work got done, the crew was happy and they were able to learn something. You face so many challenges but I bring it back to good communication, to be able to talk and rationalize.”
As for the future, Doug and his men will continue upgrading the village’s water and sewer systems. And, depending on how much money is available in the budget, Doug hopes to continue improving the streets and roads for which he is responsible.
When it comes time for him to move on how would Doug like to be remembered?
“For what we have accomplished, whether I am here for 10, 15 or 20 years. It is great to be able to work in a community where the people support you 100 percent. It’s a great feeling when you receive those letters and hear those comments, an occasional card thanking you for the services you provide. That is something everyone can strive for. It is a sense of accomplishment that you did your job.”
About the Village of Pawling
The Village of Pawling was settled by English Quakers around 1740. General George Washington stayed there in 1778 as he planned an advance on New York City. Well-known residents have included Lowell Thomas, radio commentator and writer and television talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael.
Today, the Village of Pawling is a microcosm of a town as a whole — struggling to build on the best of its illustrious past while grappling with the effects of growth.
On Charles Colman Boulevard downtown green awnings highlight the entrance of McKinney & Doyle, a restaurant/bakery that moved into larger quarters from a small store inside the village.
Next door in the 114-year-old, red-brick Dutcher House, the village centerpiece, the Book Cove and the North Pole toy store are riding the wave of the restaurant’s success. Upstairs, 46 efficiency and one- and two-bedroom apartments are nearly fully rented — at $380 for the smallest efficiency up to $700 for two-bedrooms (not including utilities).
Last year, Metro-North completed work on a new train platform and an expanded parking lot north of the downtown area.
A former farming and resort community, Pawling has weathered the downsizing of I.B.M. in East Fishkill and the closing of the Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Wingdale. Lured by the wide array of housing and the small-town atmosphere, however, newcomers still are arriving.
Pawling’s current population is considerably younger than that of even five years ago. Young families who find themselves priced out of the Westchester housing market are migrating north. This is reflected in the Pawling School District enrollment of 1,308 students. That reflects a more than 20 percent increase between the 1992 to 1993 and 1996 to 1997 school years.
That growth rate, by far the highest in Dutchess County, has presented Pawling with a challenge—how to ease the overcrowding at the district’s two schools. One $22 million solution — to construct a middle school — was narrowly defeated in a referendum in 2006. The village’s board of education is considering less costly measures.
The district encompasses all of Pawling and portions of some surrounding towns. It has one elementary school and the Pawling Junior-Senior High School covering grades 7 through 12. It offers advanced placement courses in French, biology, astronomy, calculus, English and American history.
The private Trinity-Pawling School attracts boys from all over the country to its day and boarding programs for grades 7 through 12. The school makes its enclosed hockey rink available to local youth programs and also sponsors an annual concert series for the community.
Pawling has long been quietly sought after by the well-to-do. On the eastern fringe of the village is perhaps the greatest source of local pride. Quaker Hill is an historic community cherished for its rolling countryside, magnificent estates and famous residents, past and present.
Splendid views and protection from cookie-cutter development give added value to even the most modest properties. Zoning there requires a minimum lot size of 5 acres and 350-ft. road frontage. Gracefully divided by old cemeteries and stone walls, the Hill still has its share of white clapboard farmhouses interspersed with more ostentatious properties. Originally settled by Quakers in 1728, the Hill’s panoramic views began to attract affluent summer visitors after the railroad opened up Pawling in the mid-19th century. Governor Thomas E. Dewey was a Quaker Hill resident when he ran for president in 1944 and 1948.
The Village of Pawling is steeped in history. The following are listed in the National Register of Historic Places:
The Akin Free Library
The Akin Free Library stands prominently atop Quaker Hill as a fitting memorial to a man of great vision and generous spirit. Albert J. Akin, whose lifetime spanned a full century (1803 to 1903), was responsible for some notable achievements that enriched the lives of not only his own generation but of generations to follow. He did much to promote the prosperity of the area, including the founding of the Bank of Pawling, bringing the railroad to Pawling and Dover, and establishing the Mizzentop as a premier resort hotel. In his later years he built and endowed Akin Hall for non-denominational Christian worship, lectures, and enlightenment. Akin Free Library was to be his last gift to the community. Construction began in 1898, but the building was not completed until ten years later — six years after his death.
The library occupies the first floor, and contains many resource documents, rare volumes, ledgers, genealogies of early families, as well as contemporary literature, books by local authors, newspaper collections, and a children’s section.
The Historical Society maintains a museum on the second floor dedicated to Quaker Hill memorabilia. The service window from the old Quaker Hill Post Office is featured, as are farm implements, turn of the century photographs, period and Quaker clothing, hats, and costumes.
The lower floor of the library houses the Olive Gunnison Natural History Museum. This gem of a museum contains examples of various aspects of natural history, including birds, minerals, reptile skeletons, butterflies, and a shrunken head.
The John Kane House
The year was 1752 and King George III was on the throne when John Kane left his native Ireland to make his fortune in the New World. Four years later, at the age of 22, Kane married Sybil Kent of Southeast, New York, and brought his bride to the home that still bears his name. Here they were to live for more than 20 years, and here 12 of their 13 children were born.
Kane prospered as a merchant and livestock trader, and the house at that time reflected the needs of his expanding family and business. Kane’s assets were listed as including “… .a large and commodious dwelling house, containing ten rooms, a large Storehouse 65 ft. distant from the dwelling house, with a stone building of one story between, which joined each” and there were “a barn, barracks, stables, corn-house, shed, smoke-house, dairy, etc.” The farm contained 351 acres, and had orchard of 500 bearing trees, and 950 rods (approximately 3 mi.) of stone walls.
Kane’s sojourn in Pawling was not altogether peaceful. In 1766 he joined his friend and neighbor, William Prendergast in an ill-fated movement which became known as the “Anti-rent Rebellion.” At that time vast tracts of land, originally obtained as grants from the King were still held by absentee landlords. Those landlords had started eviction action against some of the settlers who had lived on the land and worked it for years. Following a skirmish with the militia, Prendergast, the leader of the revolt was captured and barely escaped hanging. Kane, evidently, was spared any serious consequences.
Kane was not so fortunate approximately 10 years later during the colonies’ struggle for independence. His sympathies at first seem to have been with the colonies. Later, however, he changed sides and in 1777 he moved into the British lines with two of his sons. His wife and other children remained at home for three more years, and it was during this period that General George Washington became their “house guest.”
When Washington moved the Continental Army northward in the summer of 1778, following the British evacuation of Philadelphia and the battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, he chose to position his forces in the area extending from Danbury, Connecticut to Newburgh, New York. For his headquarters he selected the John Kane house in Pawling and here he stayed from September through November. The portion of the house used by Washington is the present kitchen wing, which is circa 1740.
In 1780, Sybil Kane abandoned her home and moved with her family to Nova Scotia whereupon the property was acquired by Gideon Slocum and remained in the Slocum-Watts family until the mid-1800s. It was during that period, around 1820, that the main structures, except for the kitchen wing, were razed and the present Federal-style building was constructed. After a succession of owners, the house was acquired in 1982 by the Historical Society of Quaker Hill and Pawling. The house now displays a wide selection of period furnishings and interesting artifacts.
The Pawling Room highlights the history of the town, including 1849 bank records from the Bank of Pawling (now Key Bank), store ledgers of 1861, a variety of old post cards including the Dutcher House and the Mizzentop Hotel, memories of Starlight Theater and Murrow Park, a letter written by the crew of the USS Monitor to Admiral Worden, and much more.
The Lowell Thomas Rooms feature memorabilia from the life of the pioneer broadcaster/author. All 57 of his books are on display, including his first, about Lawrence of Arabia. Lowell Thomas and his family moved to Quaker Hill in 1926 and became an integral part of the community. The articles on display capture the spirit of this long time resident and exceptional man.
Oblong Meeting House
According to tradition, the first settler on Quaker Hill was Nathan Birdsall, a surveyor, who moved here with his family in 1728. Birdsall was a Quaker and it was not long before others of his faith were to follow. By 1742 the population had grown sufficiently to warrant construction of a meeting house, which was located just south of the present site. In 1764 this early structure was replaced by the current larger building.
It was at the Oblong Meeting House in 1767, nearly 100 years before President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, that the first effective action for the abolition of slavery in the colonies was taken.
This same meeting house witnessed a different scene during the winter of 1778 to 1779 when the building was commandeered by General Washington’s officers for use as a military hospital. Although no military action occurred during that period, accidents and disease took their toll. Several Revolutionary soldiers are buried across the road near the site of the original meeting house.
In 1828 the Quaker community split into the conservative Orthodox and progressive Hicksite Societies of Friends. The more numerous Hicksites retained the Meeting House property, while the Orthodox group withdrew to erect their own meeting house in 1831, just 200 ft. to the northwest (now a private residence). As the 19th century progressed, membership declined and in 1885 the meetings were “laid down.”
In 1936 the property was acquired by the Historical Society. The Oblong Meeting House has remained virtually unchanged for the past two centuries. Inside, the partitions that were raised for worship and lowered to separate the sexes during business activities can still be seen.
(Town history courtesy of www.pawlinghistory.com and www.nytimes.com) P