The Bristol Press – Plainville City Manager Robert E. Lee plans to retire in January after serving since 2004

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PLAINVILLE – General manager Robert E. Lee said he plans to retire in January after serving the city since 2004, looking to spend more time with friends and family in Florida.

“I had a great race, but at this point in my life it’s time for me and my wife to do something different and for me that means retirement,” said Lee. “I liked coming to work every day. I will miss Plainville – the city and the staff. We have a large group of people who work here. I have mixed feelings about retirement. If the board ever needs my help, I am always ready to help if requested. ”

Although Lee is moving to Florida, he said he plans to come visit him this summer.

“I guess I’ll become a snowbird,” he joked.

Lee’s last day as city manager will be Jan.5. He is the longest serving municipal manager in Plainville and served 42 years in local government.

Prior to becoming City Manager of Plainville, he was City Manager of Hebron from 1990 to 2004. Prior to that, he was Deputy City Manager for East Hampton from 1978 to 1990.

“By working in local government you can make a positive difference and you can follow the process from start to finish,” he said. “I have worked with many board members over the years, without exception, to do what was in the best interest of the community. That and our ability to attract good staff to Plainville is what kept me in town for as long as I was here. I also feel like we have changed the culture of how we have responded to citizens’ concerns. We have become more responsive and focused on solving problems.

While in Plainville, Lee is proud to have helped secure the purchase of Robertson Airport in 2009. He also cited as an achievement the consolidation of the city and district’s finances and human resources departments. school, which he says has encouraged city and education leaders to work together.

While Lee was City Manager, renovations and improvements were made to Plainville High School, Wheeler and Toffolon Schools. He also assisted with the upgrading of the city’s water pollution control facility to completion and worked with the city council to initiate a road repair bond program.

Lee said he was also proud to leave Plainville on “a very solid financial footing”.

“We have had very minimal tax increases over the past three years, staying below or below the rate of inflation,” he said.

While Lee was manager, the city upgraded all traffic lights twice, which since 2006 has saved the city about $ 1 million in energy costs.

Lee said the city was also proactive in buying homes and relocating residents from flood-prone areas such as the Robert Street extension. This, he said, prevented what could have been a “disaster” when the area was flooded again following Hurricane Ida.

Before his last day, Lee said he hoped to continue working to move the redevelopment of the White Oak property forward, move forward with the closure of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and move forward with renovations. from the middle school of Plainville. He also wants to help put together a plan on how to use the US bailout funding.

“Next Tuesday, I will recommend that city council create a committee with city staff and council members to determine how best to spend this money,” he said.

Lee’s wife Peggy became the organizer of the Wings & Wheels Festival after former City Council member Scott Saunders and his wife Andrea, who previously chaired the Board of Education, also moved to Florida in 2018. Lee said he hopes someone will take over. and carry on the tradition.

Lee also gave some advice to anyone hired to succeed him as general manager.

“Trust the city staff and engage with the public as much as possible,” he said. “Get out there, take a walk and get to know the city. The people you meet throughout your day will help you understand what people are looking for. Overall, the people were very supportive of me and the city staff and supported us. ”

City council chairwoman Kathy Pugliese was on city council when Lee was hired. She said “her insight and leadership will be sorely missed”.

“I remember his response when asked what he thought were the most important aspects for any community – his response was ‘education and public safety’,” Pugliese said. “To this day, both are essential to any thriving community. ”

She also cited the city’s combination of Education and Financial Services, Human Resources and Technology Council as a major achievement.

“This is a model of synergy that many other cities have considered Plainville as a basis for changing their operational structure,” she said. “Most recently, he was in the driver’s seat during the overwhelming covid-19 issues. ”

Pugliese said Lee’s concern for the community and his “drive for excellence” set Plainville apart from other cities in Connecticut.

“We are also rated AA + by the rating agency Moody’s due to exceptional financial management,” she said. “He created a legacy of innovation and progress for Plainville that sets us apart from many other communities.

Councilor Deb Tompkins said Lee was a “24/7 city manager.” She noted that he was very responsive on social media, frequently answering residents’ questions on Plainville Talks.

“When people need their questions answered, he’s always there to do it,” she said. “He has been a very good city manager and is always very good with the budget. His retirement will be a loss for us. It will be difficult to replace it.

City Councilor David Underwood said Lee was “exceptional” as a city manager.

“He will be truly missed,” Underwood said. “It will be very hard for the board to replace Robert. I wish him all the best in the world. He deserves it. He worked very hard all the years he spent in Plainville.

City Councilor Rosemary Morante said it was a pleasure working with Lee.

“Robert’s breadth of knowledge, his skills, his ability to manage several things at the same time and his responsiveness to the city’s residents are among the many attributes that have had a positive impact on Plainville,” she said. declared. “It will be a challenge to replace Robert. I certainly wish he didn’t go, but I hope he has a wonderful and well-deserved retirement. ”

City Councilor Jesse Gnazzo also had some positive things to say about Lee.

“I think Robert has been a tremendous asset for Plainville and for the board. His level of understanding of municipal administration is unmatched by many.

Gnazzo said one of the things he respected the most about Lee was the way he answered questions that people weren’t looking for or like.

“He was always professional even though he was beaten up a lot by some people,” said Gnazzo.

Superintendent of Schools Steve LePage said Lee was a “unique” city manager who has done so much for the city.

“We’ve had a very positive working relationship from when I became superintendent and before, when I had her son as a student when I was a high school principal,” said LePage. “We have always had a respectful and supportive relationship and it was nice to work with him. I hope he enjoys his retirement; he deserves it.”

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@bristolpress.com.


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