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Superintendent of Public Works Larry Smith and the Village of Painted Post

Sun November 01, 2009 - National Edition
Laurie Mercer

It’s not easy replacing a well respected guy who has 39 years running just about everything in the village of Painted Post. But three years ago, that’s what Larry Smith, superintendent, department of public works, was asked to do.

Former Superintendent Don Hart asked Larry to make a career switch from civil engineering to inherit all of Painted Post’s needs for water, sewage, snow removal, sidewalks, public pool, parks and two cemeteries — one of them “closed.”

The “open” cemetery represents what Larry likes the least about being superintendent of the DPW, a position appointed by the town board. He said the only part of the job he doesn’t enjoy is selling burial plots. All too often, people Larry knows well will buy a plot for themselves or a loved one and the next thing he knows, he said, his crew is digging in the earth to prepare for a burial.

Painted Post is a closely knit town of about 2,000 residents where a well trafficked interstate zooms by, while residents enjoy the many amenities of small town life in their lovely, tree-lined historic village.

The total DPW budget (primarily roads, water and sewer) is more than $1 million. The CHIPS allocation is $38,000.

First of all, an explanation is in order for the name Painted Post. Legends about the name are more numerous than the squirrels in the cemeteries, but most people in the area are somewhat certain that the Native Americans erected a wooden post near the spot where three major rivers unite. Today, a healthy mix of commercial, industrial and residential use makes this an ideal place to work and live. The village’s early history is preserved; there has been little change and no room for new housing developments.

“I grew up in the town of Caton, just southeast of us. I lived in town and worked on farms. My wife was from Painted Post, which is how I ended up in the village 23 years ago,” Larry said.

In addition to being superintendent for the past three years, Larry has been the village’s volunteer fire chief for the past eight years including the 23 he’s been with the department. His sons also are volunteer firefighters — the fourth generation of Smiths’ to do so.

From an Outside Civil

Engineering Firm to DPW Chief

Don Hart, the previous superintendent, had worked himself up through the department to the water system, and finally DPW superintendent. Larry’s work with the civil engineering firm had on occasion brought him in contact with Don’s needs in the village.

“He must have liked what he saw, because he asked me to come on,” said Larry.

This story also appears on Superintendent's Profile.

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