By Beth David, Editor
Kathy Tripp has spent her entire career working for the public works department in Fairhaven. Well, except for couple of months waiting tables 40 years ago, when she was 19.
“I wasn’t very good at it, and I didn’t care for it,” said Ms. Tripp. “I’m not waitress material.”
It was 1978 and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) had been operating for about five years to get people to go into public service. She was placed at the DPW in Fairhaven, at the old barn on Adams Street (it was Rotch Street then), “with all the men,” she said.
She loved it.
Forty years later, she is 60 years old and the two numbers together make that magic 100 that public employees strive for to get their maximum pension.
Several former and current DPW employees and board members gathered for a chance to reminisce on Tuesday, 6/26, at the building on Arsene Street, not exactly new at 30+ years old, but new to some of them.
“The good old days,” several called it, when the department was smaller.
To Ms. Tripp, it was all good, the changes, the struggles, the whole thing. She said most people stayed in the department for a long time, so he got to know them all pretty well,.
“It’s kind of like family, everybody gets along,” she said, well, mostly.
“It’s a good job,” she said, and she always wanted to go to work, every day. “I always liked it. I never had a bad thing to say.”
“I just don’t like the politics involved,” said Ms. Tripp, who was also the recording secretary for the BPW, and the go-to person for any questions in the department. Her final title was “Administrative Assistant,” but in reality she was more like an assistant superintendent to the entire department. “I just don’t like it when people think they can bypass the rules. It doesn’t sit well with me.”
Not that there weren’t arguments, noted Robert “Hoppy” Hobson, a current and longtime BPW member. But, they don’t hold it against each other. They still say ‘hi’ to each other the next day.
“If you don’t do that, you don’t belong in this job,” said former DPW Superintendent Fred Raphael, who also sang Ms. Tripp’s praises, going back to the days of the “old barn,” when she was the only woman
Ms. Tripp said she never had a problem with the men. Her first boss, Gus Longo, would not have put up with any of that, she said. Not a chance.
“He said ‘jump,’ you said ‘how high,’” she said. “He was a nice man to me.”
The group talked about some of the former board members and others who crossed through the doorway over the years.
“Remember Mr. No-Shorts?” asked Fran Robillard, who worked in the BPW building for 21 years before moving to Town Hall. He was a contractor who didn’t wear any underwear, and the women could see that.
“We’ve had a few beauts over the years,” said Ms. Tripp.
“She is the consummate professional who knows her job very well,” said Anne O’Brien, the town’s Human Resources Director. “I turned to her for advice. You can’t replace Kathy, she’s going to be missed.”
Paul Francis, who was on the board around the time Ms. Tripp got hired through Civil Service after her few months with CETA, said he was in town and could not miss the send-off.
“She did a helluva job,” he said. “‘Good’ isn’t the word for it. She did a helluva job.”
Ms. Tripp lives in Marion with her husband and looks forward to regular babysitting gigs for her two new “grandbabies.”
“Cry?” said DPW Superintendent Vinnie Furtado answering a question about what he would do with Ms. Tripp gone. He said he is trying to get he to come back every now and then when they need help, but….
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