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City's Longest Serving DPW Chief Announces Retirement


The longest serving director of public works in Springfield, Massachusetts is calling it a career. The city’s mayor has announced plans for a smooth transition in a department responsible for many essential city services.

   Springfield DPW director Allan Chwalek announced his plans to retire Tuesday from a job that likely lends itself to more anger from the public than any other in municipal government. For 17 years Chwalek has taken the heat over potholes, trash pickups, and unplowed streets while managing budget cuts that shrunk his workforce from 400 people to fewer than 150.

    " It is difficult, but we found a way to provide the residents of the city with a very high level of service."

     Chwalek started his career in public works for the city as a part- time employee 37 years ago. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who said he has known Chwalek since the late 1980s, called him a dedicated and invaluable member of the administration.

   Sarno praised Chwalek for his role in making Springfield one of the first cities in the Northeast to adopt a curbside pick-up single stream recycling program.  In recent years, Chwalek oversaw tens of millions of dollars in state and federally funded street and sidewalk improvement projects.  He also directed the removal of tons of debris after the 2011 tornado and October snowstorm.

    Sarno pledged a smooth transition and announced the appointment of current City Engineer Chris Cignoli to be the next director of the Springfield DPW.

   " He has done an outstanding job. He has been battle tested as Al has."

   Cignoli who has been employed by the city for 4-and-a-half years said his goal is to continue the effective deliver of the services people depend on while providing support for several upcoming major construction projects including the new casino and the repairs to the I-91 viaduct.

     Cignoli said he wants to improve the department’s communications with the public.

     " From small projects to big projects from snow plowing to pot holes, letting people know what we are going to do and when we are going to do it and how it is going to impact their daily lives."

   Chwalek is retiring on May 31st.  His departure coincides with the retirement of Police Commissioner William Fitchet.  

   Sarno has appointed Deputy Police Chief John Barbieri to be the next police commissioner.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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