CHAZY - Richard "Dick" Lewis has enjoyed a long career with the town of Chazy, but now he's moving on.
Lewis, who currently serves as the town highway superintendent, will retire June 30 from the position he's held since 2006. However, his service with the town dates back much further than that.
"I started out as a town assessor," recalled Lewis. "I ran for office back in 1979 and started in 1980."
It was in that position that Lewis said he learned one thing.
"Everybody wasn't always happy with their assessment," he said, laughing. "And, some still aren't."
Though the job of placing a value on a taxpayer's property can be one that has the potential of causing friction between the assessor and townspeople, Lewis said he doesn't recall ever having an issue with anyone over an assessment he gave.
"I really can't complain," Lewis said. "I've had a pretty good rapport with people in the town of Chazy. I never really had any knock down, drag out battles. And, I think that's because when I was an assessor I always tried to be fair and straight up with people."
Eventually, Lewis decided to try his hand at overseeing the town highway department. In 2005, after retiring from his town assessor job, he ran for office - and won.
"It was a three-way race," Lewis recalled. "I was a Republican running against a Democrat incumbent and an Independent. Luckily, I ended up with the win."
And, he did again in 2009, landing a second four-year term.
Though his term won't run out until Dec. 31, 2013, Lewis said he decided to step down from his position to focus more on his own business, Lewis Excavating.
"I've put it on the back burner for awhile, and I had to make a decision to either keep my job with the highway department or focus on my business," explained Lewis. "And, I've had my business since 1973. I didn't want to let it go."
As Lewis prepares to bring his career with the town to a close, he recently reflected on the accomplishments made on his watch, particularly with the highway department.
"When I started with the highway department, we were able to drop some positions to save money," Lewis said. "We were also able to find ways to cut down on the amount of fuel we used, saving us quite a bit of money."
The feather in the cap of Lewis' tenure, he said, was the recent receipt of a $339,000 state grant for the construction of a sand and salt storage facility. The structure, which is in the process of being engineered, is something Lewis and other town officials had been lobbying for several years to get.
"We had help from Melissa McManus for the gr nt writing process, and later help from Adele Douglas. If we didn't get the grant, I don't know how long it would've taken to build [the storage facility]," said Lewis.
Through "a really good crew" at the highway department and good working relationships with organizations like the local fire and emergency medical service departments, Lewis said his job was made much easier.
"That's important," Lewis said. "They all deserve a good 'Atta boy.'"
Town Supervisor Staub G. Spiegel commended a humble Lewis, saying he's sorry to see Lewis go.
"Dick has always been fantastic at his job, in both positions he's had with the town," Spiegel said. "He's had a great attention to detail and helped save the town a lot of money. I can't think of a better person who could have run his department this whole time."
The town will, however, now look to fill Lewis' shoes. Deputy highway superintendent Tim Lamica is expected to temporarily take over for Lewis upon his retirement. The position of highway superintendent - Lewis' unexpired term that ends in 2013 - will be put on the ballot for the November election.