The town of Georgia said a formal farewell with cake and well-wishes to its longest-serving town employee last week, though Howard Webster, road foreman, would have preferred to finish up 23 years quietly.
The humble man declined to be interviewed for this article.
In his view, according to his wife, Sue, “All he did was do a job. Everyone has to have a job; luckily, he had one he enjoyed.”
The Websters live on the Georgia Center farm that’s been in Howard’s family for at least five generations, Sue Webster said. For the past 17 years, Sue has been the town librarian, a post she has no plans to leave, she said.
A lifelong Georgian, Howard Webster served as a selectman and a member of the Board of Civil Authority in 1992. He coached softball and T-ball and also umpired when his children, Amanda and Torrey, were young, Sue Webster said.
Before he worked for the town, Howard Webster was a farmhand, then spent six years logging. He started part-time in the highway department in 1988 and was promoted to road foreman in 1997, Administrative Assistant Krissy Jenkins said.
Arlie Fuller, who retired in 2005, was a driver in the department in the 1980s when then-Road Foreman Clarence Bocash asked Webster about taking on some engine repair projects, experience he had from farming, he said.
Webster was on a mud season hiatus from logging. He initially declined the offer, his wife recalled, but later accepted and never looked back.
Working in the highway department is a logical career step for self-employed laborers, Fuller said. The new foreman, Roy Bockus, previously owned an excavation business, Road Commissioner Ric Nye said.
“It’s a good place for a young man to start working,” Fuller said.
The job provided not only a steady paycheck but also solid insurance and retirement plans. The work isn’t easy, though. The foreman’s main duty is keeping town roads in the best condition possible, while maximizing the money available.
Former Georgia Selectman Colin Conger said Webster was a dedicated employee.
“He was routinely out checking road conditions while rest of us were still asleep,” recalled Conger, who has known Webster for decades – the two are related, he said.
Nye, who was appointed road commissioner around the time Webster started, said the latter was “very conscientious [about] keeping track of weather.”
Fuller said clocking in overtime is part of highway department life.
Webster, who turns 55 this month, retired making about $44,000 a year, Baker said. Webster’s paychecks always included overtime hours, she added.
“You are what you are and gotta do what you gotta do. It’s quite demanding sometimes,” Fuller said.
Last year, the town erected a brand-new sand and salt shed on Plains Road, across from the highway garage. Then-Town Administrator Carrie Johnson said at the time the $214,000 project clocked in under budget partly because of the work the highway department employees did themselves.
Conger and Webster co-chaired the shed project.
“Howard and his crew did any of the smaller work that was possible,” he said.
That entailed laying the structure’s base and installing drainage around the building, he said.
“That project, as well as on any project, he was a dedicated employee,” Conger said. “His knowledge, experience and judgment will certainly be missed. You can’t have an employee for that long, [be] that dedicated and not feel a loss to the town.”
This fall brought other changes to the department. Lesley Combs recently took a job in Fairfax, and Matt Crepeau left September 21, Jenkins said.
Todd Cadieux, a former highway employee, returned when Lesley Combs left, and the town accepted applications for Crepeau’s job until October 3, she added. The new foreman, Bockus, began September 4; the department also employs Lesley Combs’ twin, Wesley.
“It’s going to take some time for the new fella to get up to speed,” Nye said. “[Roy has] been with Howard for three weeks, but Howard couldn’t get in all 23 years in three weeks. It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ll get where we need to be.”
Nye, Webster’s longtime friend, found him an easy-going colleague who handled the public professionally.
Sue Webster, quoting her husband, said the local K-8 school’s reputation “attracts people that care about their community.”
All Webster’s colleagues said he was easy to work for.
“He liked to talk about hunting and fishing and was just an ordinary guy that made the foreman position,” Fuller said.
Howard and Sue Webster are also celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary this week. Sue said her husband is looking forward to spending time with their 2-year-old grandson, enjoying his outdoor hobbies and starting his new routine.
“He plans to just kind of calm down and enjoy life for awhile,” she said.