Brookline welcomes first director of public works

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire Michael Wenrich is settling in as the first-ever director of public works in Brookline.

BROOKLINE – Michael Wenrich started his own business at 11 years old. For the last 16 years, he has dedicated himself to running his Nashua-based landscaping and excavation company, MCW Landscaping.

Now, though, he is hanging up his hard hat and stepping in as Brookline’s first-ever director of public works.

For many years, at least several decades, Brookline’s roads have been maintained by a road agent. For the last 18 years, that job fell to Jerry Farwell who runs CL Farwell Construction. Before that, his father did the job, cleaning and plowing the roads and overseeing the transfer station. However, as the town grew, the roads required more service, and for someone running another business, it became too big of a job.

Farwell petitioned to the board of selectmen nearly 10 years ago, according to Town Administrator Tad Putney, suggesting that the board start putting away money to form a Department of Public Works.

It was not until almost a decade later that they decided to follow his advice, as they formed a committee to evaluate the job.

“You don’t pull a switch and have a fully staffed DPW overnight,” Putney said.

Wenrich, who currently represents the entirety of the department, with no other staff members or equipment, will need to develop a long-term plan.

Officials have $100,000 approved for a capital reserve fund, Putney said, and the first purchase will be a truck for Wenrich. Until they can get up and running, “we will continue to look to Jerry and others for now for the manpower and equipment,” he said.

As for Farwell, he said while he was spread too thin, Brookline was “very supportive” during his years as town road agent.

Wenrich has no plans to “shake the world overnight;” rather, the first steps are going to involve a lot of budget research, he said, to get the town back in good shape and work on keeping better records.

He admitted to having limited experience, other than running his own successful business, and at a salary of $65,000 per year, he accepted less than was offered because he knew he “didn’t have the real municipal background,” he said.

Despite perhaps less experience, Brookline Board of Selectmen Chair Brendan Denehey said that of the three applicants interviewed, Wenrich was the most qualified.

Each applicant had to review the report the committee put forward and prepare a 10-minute presentation on their plans for the town.

Wenrich’s presentation, Denehey said, was “very well thought out and thorough.”

“I love this town a lot,” Wenrich said simply.

After running his own business for more than half his life, the 27-year-old Wenrich realized he had stopped setting goals for his business- he had taken it where he wanted it to go. This new position was a logical next step that finally “clicked” for him after a town meeting when the position was announced.

“There’s nothing else I would have given up my business for,” he said, adding he will keep doing some side work and keep the equipment.

“I’m here for the people,” Wenrich added.

There are plans for the fledgling department to, at some point in the future, to construct a new building on site at the Transfer Station. However, according to Denehey, officials will evaluate the station and see what other improvements need to be made.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.