Royalston’s Keith Newton to relinquish DPW post at end of summer

  • Royalston Public Works Superintendent Keith Newton has announced he will be leaving the position at the beginning of September. Newton has been with the department since 1986 and has led the DPW since 1996. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 4/28/2022 4:16:21 PM
Modified: 4/28/2022 4:14:53 PM

ROYALSTON — Come Sept. 1, there will be just one Newton left leading a municipal department in the town of Royalston. Current Public Works Department Superintendent Keith Newton officially tendered his resignation during the April 19 meeting of the town’s Selectboard. That will leave Geoff Newton in charge of the town’s Building Department.

Keith Newton stepped down as chief of the Royalston Fire Department in June 2020 after 12 years in that position and a total of 47 years overall with the department. This time he is leaving a department he has served for 36 years and which he has managed since 1996.

Newton, who turns 68 in August, told the Athol Daily News that he did know when he resigned as fire chief that he would soon be leaving the DPW but added, “I don’t watch the clock.”

He described his work with the Fire Department as “my passion,” then said of his job in the DPW, “Every morning I come here I feel good about coming to work. Every time I come in here, I have a mission in mind, and I’ve got a schedule that I’ve set for myself.

“It’s not completed yet, but I’ve still got goals ahead and I’m still going to remain active right to the last day,” he said. 

Newton said there is a reason he chose Sept. 1 as his retirement date, rather than leaving at the end of the current fiscal year on July 1.

“I’ve worked extremely hard getting funding for some very large, contracted pavement projects and I want to see those through. I’ve also have two Chapter 90 projects that I have on the list to go and scheduled funding is in place. And I just secured an $869,000 asphalt contract from the commonwealth, the governor’s asphalt task force, and Royalston was able to qualify. I started that in 2019 and now it’s come to the town.

“All of that, I put a lot of time and a lot of effort into, and I feel very proud of all that, and I want to see all those projects through. I couldn’t get it done by the end of the fiscal year – June 30 – so I extended it one more quarter; I figured in that amount of time I should be able to wrap up those projects. That will give the next one stepping in a good template to follow, so the transition for this job shouldn’t be as hard as when I first started.”

Newton said when he assumed management in 1996 the department seemed to lack a basic strategy.

“I had to develop the program on my own,” he said, “because there really wasn’t anything in place. Monies weren’t available like they are now; there seems to be a better stream of money. That’s the challenge of this position.

“Anybody who’s going to take this spot can remain on that same track — look for that money — it’s there but it doesn't just show up. You have to be willing to go out there and get online and check all available sources, which is what I’ve done for a lot of years,” he said. 

When Newton took over as fire chief he had been preceded in that position by both his father and his brother. When it comes to public works, he said, “My grandfather and my great grandfather both had teams of horses that actually dragged the old devices for grading roadways. They were responsible for, when any kind of weather happened, they would assemble all the manpower available, and it seems my grandfather and great grandfather had the horse teams, so they were hired by the town from time-to-time to do that, but I don’t believe they really had a managing position in those days, but they were part of it.”

Asked if there are any projects completed over the past 26 years that he’s most proud of, Newton replied, “I don’t believe there’s any individual project that is any more significant than another, other than I can say our road system has been updated and upgraded significantly during my tenure. The secret I’ve always employed is, don’t give up. If funding doesn’t come in one form or another, don’t give up. There’s always another cycle coming, so be ready for it.”

Newton said much of his success has resulted from doing the prep work; making sure such things as design and engineering and feasibility studies are ready to present to those people and organizations — such as the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission — that control the purse strings.

“I knew I had to stick at it and keep putting Royalston’s name up front, and eventually the funding would materialize. They key is to stay active, stay energized. Don’t give up just because you’ve been disappointed once,” he said. 

Newton also expressed satisfaction with putting together a professional workforce consisting of employees with varying degrees of training. He also believes he’s done a good job improving communication between the department and town officials and residents.

The Athol Daily News wanted to know if, now that he’ll have more time on his hands, Newton may continue his involvement in town affairs by seeking elective office.

“Part of my (resignation) letter said I’m looking forward to my next chapters, and that’s plural for a reason,” he said. “It may include that … it may not include that. Options are always good to have.

“I love this community,” he continued. “There’s no doubt I have energies that would help, but at this point I just need to take a break. Have I thought about that? Of course I have. I’ve thought about continuing to help the community. I’m still going to be here. I’m still going to live in this town that I love so much and contribute as much as I can.”

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