BY ANGELO LYNN
PITTSFORD — Almost 20 years ago, in 2003, Pittsford Town Manager John Haverstock bought land in town and would soon have a log cabin built on that property. An attorney in Connecticut at the time, he used the property as a weekend and vacation getaway, and enjoyed it so much that he would move here full-time in 2008 when he took the job as town manager.
Haverstock had grown up in Arlington, Va., just outside Washington, D.C., attended Wakefield High School in Alexandria and went on to get his bachelors from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 1984, and his law degree from there in 1987. He practiced law for the next 20 years, never married or had kids during that time.
Today, however, he and his girlfriend/partner of 12 years live in Addison, Vt., and he still very much enjoys walking in the woods, gardening, doing home improvement projects and traveling. Good passions to have in light of his decision to step down from the town manager’s position as of this Friday, April 26.
Before he heads out of town, we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions — an exit interview, per se — and to share the wisdom of his 14 years as town manager.
Q: It’s been a good ride for you here as Pittsford’s Town Manager. When you first arrived in town, what were your first impressions and did you think you’d stay this long?
A: I have always loved Pittsford because of the peace and natural beauty of the Town and its warm and friendly residents. I am pleased with my long tenure here as it has enabled me to learn all about municipal and state government and to be productive on behalf of the Select Board and town residents.
Q: For newcomers, first impressions of a town can be important. What do you think those impressions are for many and what are some of the things Pittsford could do to improve?
A: I believe many are impressed that so many families have stayed in town for many generations—a testament to the quality of life here and the strong community spirit which prevails. For better or worse, many people’s first impressions of town derive from the condition of US Route 7, which bisects the town. We anxiously await the implementation of state plans to reconstruct several segments of the highway—particularly Segment 2, which is within the Village. We have seen how a highway reconstruction project has transformed the Brandon downtown and we hope that the Village of Pittsford will similarly benefit from an upgrade of the highway and related infrastructure, such as sidewalks.
Q: If the elementary school is full, and housing is tight, does Pittsford have a need/desire to attract new residents?
A: Yes, the Town wishes to attract new families. However, the lack of affordable and moderately priced housing is a problem here and all across the state.
Q: Pittsford has done a lot over the past decade to develop its town recreational trail system. Could you sum up what’s been done and who’s been responsible for that? Are more trails on the way?
A: Baird Morgan and Bob Harnish have led a hard-working Trails Committee, with a large roster of volunteers. We are always looking to establish new trails and any landowners willing to discuss access are encouraged to reach out to Baird, Bob or our Recreation Director, Jennifer Popp.
Q: What other town recreation developments are in the town’s future?
A: The new Recreation Director, Jennifer Popp, is a dynamo and has done a great deal in her first year to maintain popular programs and develop new ones. Her facility with social media is a great asset, as we reach out to the public with programming information and other time-sensitive notices. Jen has plans to resurface bathroom floors at the Recreation Area, re-surface the tennis and basketball courts and to replace the dock at the Recreation Area’s swimming pond. We also hope to better showcase our excellent 18-hole disc golf course, creating league play and hosting bigger and better tournaments there.
Q: Big projects upcoming include improving Route 7 through Pittsford. Could you briefly outline the project and how long it’ll take?
A: The state plans to upgrade Route 7 within Pittsford by segments, each of which takes approximately 2 years to complete. Segment 1 (south of the Mobil Station) is nearly complete. Segment 4 (which spans northern Pittsford and southern Brandon) is likely next to be upgraded. This will likely be followed by Segment 3 (running from Plains Road northward) and finally Segment 2 (the Village segment). Since each segment takes about 2 years, and VTrans prefers to only tackle one segment at a time, we may not see Segment 2 upgraded until late in this decade (2028?). In addition, the state also plans to replace the bridge across Furnace Brook near the Mobil station.
Q: What other infrastructure projects are in the works for Pittsford?
A: The Town has plans to install a pre-cast box culvert on West Creek Road and to pave the southern end of West Creek Road and resurface several other stretches of highway. The Town also hopes to replace two undersized steel tube culverts on Whipple Hollow Road.
Q What were three of the most significant developments or projects you’ve helped oversee in your time as Town Manager?
A. It was great to get sidewalk segments installed with grant funds along Arch and Pleasant Roads. We also used grant funds to build a sand/salt shed at the Transfer Station lot (for Highway Department use). This enables the highway crew to mix and load sand and salt for more efficient winter operations. Perhaps most enjoyable and satisfying for me was the dismantling of Kendrick Dam on Sugar Hollow Road (once again with grant funds). The dam was once used to power a mill and allowed for ice harvesting and storage. However, in recent decades, it had fallen into disrepair, was silting in and serving as mosquito habitat. We persuaded the state to erect a historic marker off Plains Road to note the site’s importance to the community in its heyday. It was also wonderful to work with a local business — Markowski Excavating, Inc. — on this project. A few historic artifacts relating to ice harvesting operations were unearthed and given over to the Pittsford Historical Society.
Q: Define what the job of town manager is. Then define what the position entails.
A: Basically, a Town Manager runs the town on a day-to-day basis, doing his/her best to implement the policy goals of the elected Select Board, to which he/she regularly reports. This entails staying abreast of trends and issues in municipal government through continuing education/training and working with the state, other municipalities, town staff and, of course, town residents. A lot of the job is receiving and disseminating information. Other duties include handling personnel matters, budgeting and preparing for big events (Pittsford Day, Veterans Day, Town meeting, etc.). I have truly loved the work and its variety. The job has taught me how to prioritize tasks and to adapt to constantly changing circumstances.
Q: What’s been the biggest surprise since you’ve been here?
A. I have found it remarkable that so many Town residents give so freely of their time and talents to help the Town function. Volunteerism and community spirit are alive and well in Pittsford!
Q: What’s been the most helpful thing — community, select board members, colleagues — in allowing you to get your job done?
A. All of the above. As a Vermont “transplant” it has been great to work with a select board that has deep roots in the community. They have often educated me about Pittsford’s history and culture. I have also been especially thankful for the assistance and guidance offered by the Vermont League of Cities & Towns.
Q: If you could tell townspeople the most helpful action they could do to help any town manager, what would it be?
A. I would encourage them to stop by and say hello and introduce yourself to the new Town Manager. Let her know what you love most about your community and how she might help to make Pittsford even better. If you have some time and talent to offer, please also consider volunteering to serve on a Town board or commission, or as a Town representative on a regional board.
Q: Any favorite moments stand out?
A. Pittsford Day is always a wonderful time for townspeople to renew relationships with friends and neighbors. However, most thrilling was the completion of the Kendrick Dam dismantling, as it (a) cost the Town residents nothing, (b) greatly improved the area aesthetically, (c) highlighted the history of the site (through the erection of a State historic marker), (d) employed a local business in a worthy project and (e) restored the natural flow of Sugar Hollow Brook, hopefully to the benefit of its trout population.
Q: Looking back over the years in Pittsford, any comments about your time here and words of wisdom for the new town manager?
A: I hope that Brenda enjoys the people of Pittsford as much as I have and that she enjoys the work of Town Manager as much as I have. Pittsford has been very good to me and I will miss it a great deal. I hope to return to visit often to the “Sunshine Village.”