By Josh LaBella
A job in public works can be reactive by nature. Tom McCarthy, Commissioner of Public Works, said there are few kudos in the work they do.
McCarthy said he got his start in construction as a concrete worker in New York and was a member of Local 18A, where his father also worked. He eventually became the director of construction for a large building company in New Jersey. He added that he has built houses all across the country.
When his wife got headhunted for a job a Bayer, McCarthy and his family moved to Connecticut and he became a stay at home father. Around the time that Mayor Nancy Rossi was running for office, Tom’s son was starting high school. When she offered him the position he said he had to say yes.
“The only reason I took this job is because the timing was right,” said McCarthy. “My son is now a freshman at Notre Dame [High School].”
McCarthy, said while he enjoys the work, the job has been eye-opening. He called the position “time-consuming” and said he usually clocks in 60 to 70 hours a week physically on the job and another 10 from the phone calls he gets when he is home.
“I like to say we are 5 percent of the budget,” said McCarthy, “and 55 percent of the phone calls that come in.”
According to McCarthy, even though this past winter was not bad in terms of snow, the repeated freezing and thawing have made the potholes “uniquely hard” to deal with.
“We’ve been really aggressive but it’s been hard to catch up,” said McCarthy. “We’re very mindful of that. I mean every place we go we hear about it. So while we are catching up, it’s not fast enough for the public. I appreciate that but it doesn’t mean we aren’t working as hard as we can.”
McCarthy said if they talked to 10 people, most of them would give them advise on how to do their jobs better. He said they do their best to listen and occasionally they come across someone who has good advice.
“Sometimes our folks get a hard knock,” said McCarthy. “We have people who like to take photos of a truck her or a truck there. But I promise you we have folks who work harder than just about anybody. And they care. Do we make mistakes? Yes. But it’s not because we’re not trying.”
The commissioner said he lives by the motto, “Make every mistake once.” He said if they do not make mistakes they are not learning.
McCarthy said during his term public works have expanded their office hours by an hour during the week and have added a Saturday shift so they people who work can call on the weekends. He said they have also tried to work on bigger projects so as to not just put a “Band-Aid” on things.
If McCarthy is asked to serve another term, he said he would most likely say yes.
“I would find it very hard to say no to Mayor Rossi,” said McCarthy. “But this has been very time consuming, very taxing. But I genuinely love this city. Win, lose or draw, I will still be in the city. I suspect if any mayor asked me to do something, I would find it hard to say no.”