For the first time in about 30 years, the Coventry Public Works Department has a new person in charge. Bob Clarkin was hired on March 19, replacing Dennis Smith, who retired.
Clarkin previously held the same position in Foster for four and a half years.
Thirty-seven people applied for the position, which pays $83,000. Seven finalists were interviewed.
“What stood out about Bob during the interview process was his confidence, his knowledge and his experience as a public works and parks and recreation director,” stated Town Manager Thomas Hoover. “Bob was also familiar with the public works department in Coventry from having worked with them through his position in Foster and through the Rhode Island Public Works Association.”
Clarkin felt prepared for the interview and the job.
“I did my due diligence to learn about the budget history and the town via the internet and other methods,” said Clarkin. “Everything I learned in Foster has prepared me for this job in Coventry.”
One of the challenges that Clarkin is faced with is how to improve services without increasing spending.
“In this economy, you need someone who can figure out how to do more with less, while also keeping staff morale up,” said Hoover. “In these trying times, Bob is best-suited for this challenge.”
Having worked under similar financial circumstances in Foster, Clarkin is well aware of what he’s up against.
“The challenges of both departments are similar in that the budgets are extremely tight and you must operate with the same amount of money as previous years, even as costs for products increase,” explained Clarkin. “My short-term goal is to increase efficiencies utilizing our current resources.”
According to the Public Works Department’s website, the department is responsible for the engineering, maintenance and construction of roads and bridges, along with storm water systems, traffic and street signs, winter storm operations and sanitation services.
As a long-term goal, Hoover and Clarkin would like the department to run like a well-oiled machine.
“We want to make sure all of our policies and procedures are up-to-date and we stay current with how we operate,” said Hoover.
Clarkin added, “We want to be the public works department that others look to emulate.”
The 50-year-old director resides in Cranston with his wife and three daughters.