Town Hires New DPW Director

The town has named Stephen Arceneaux as its new Department of Public Works Director. Arceneaux had been serving as interim director since the resignation of Rob McNeil last year. This week he granted his first interview as DPW director to the Nantucket Current.

“I’m here and I’ll do whatever I can to keep us afloat,” Arceneaux said, acknowledging the difficult staffing situation the DPW has faced over the past year. “I talked to the team, let them know what I knew of the situation, and I said ‘we’ll pull through this and rebuild and make this work.’ Since then, it’s about getting the right people in line, changing how we communicate and improving on that, and getting back to the basics. Getting our basic services in line and recommitting ourselves to that.”

Arceneaux was chosen from a group of 16 applicants for the job. So given all the challenges the department is facing, what is his first order of business?

“I need to get the department manned out and one of the key factors is the morale of the team,” Arceneaux said. “The higher the morale the more interest we have in the DPW, being that our resources are the island’s resources. I was very cognizant of that. I pulled in the foreman and the crew and said ‘how do we move forward’? So much has happened. To be able to be reliable and completing our lines of service, we’ve changed our work practices so we’re not bouncing around from one thing to the next. The managers determine the list of duties and they determine the priorities with the foremen and they can plan out their week, so they know what they’re doing.”

Arceneaux served in the US Army for 26 years, achieving the rank of Captain. He served in the Middle East from 2012-13, based at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Army Achievement Medal, among other honors. Those experiences in the military, such as building electrical infrastructure for the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, he said, have prepared him for the opportunity he now has in front of him.

“I joined the National Guard when I was 19 – I was shy, I stuttered, and I did not like confrontation,” he said. “A friend of mine came back from basic training and was completely transformed, and I said I wanted to do that. I went into the Army and it took off from there. Everything I was uncomfortable with, I volunteered for whether I made a fool of myself or not. I kept pushing myself.”

In the Army, Arceneaux studied engineering with a focus on power and utilities, and he eventually became a public works director for the military.

The most important thing with this role is the people and being able to speak the language –  I can talk engineering, chemistry, physics,” he said. “I didn’t just get a manual and read things in the Army. I was either training or doing. But the most important thing was developing people. The team we have here, we have technical experience, but they need to be supported and they need to know they’re being listened to.”

In announcing Arceneaux’s hiring on Monday, town manager Libby Gibson said “Stephen demonstrated leadership ability, knowledge of Town operations and DPW personnel management throughout the interview process as well as a strong commitment to the position.”

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