“Without you guys I’d be nothing,” Mike Weber, 58, the Acting Highway Chief of the Department of Public Works said to 15 of his co-workers yesterday. Yesterday Weber retired after working for the city for 37 years.
The men gathered around a chocolate cake with a yellow dump truck on it to wish him well. Among them was David Picozzi, acting director of the department, who worked with Weber for 27 years. He said Weber has always been a dependable, “hard worker” and continued to be during his final week of service.
“He was at a neighborhood meeting on Monday night with only three days left,” said Picozzi. “That’s what kind of employee he was. We always had fun while we were getting a lot of work done. I’m going to miss him.”
Other employees shared Picozzi’s sentiments, including heavy equipment operator Dan Conley, who has been working at DPW for nearly 25 years.
“He’s a good, stand up guy,” Conley said.
Jon Baribault, mechanic at the Warwick Police Department, said he’s sure many citizens will miss hearing Weber’s voice on the radio during snowstorms, as he often reported the conditions of the roads. Further, Baribault said he always encouraged his employees with kind words.
“He motivated the guys to get the job done during critical hours when everyone was tired,” said Baribault. “When you work all day and through the night, it’s nice to hear someone say, ‘Great job guys.’”
Terry DiPetrillo, a foreman at DPW, agreed. He also said Weber’s volunteer work is admirable, as well.
“He was a coach for a soccer youth organization and did a lot for the community,” DiPetrillo said.
Additionally, Weber participated in last year’s production of “Dancing with the Stars,” a charity event for the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership. He cut a rug to Lady Gaga’s hit, “Poker Face,” alongside Deborah O’Donnell.
Jerry Parker, a sanitation engineer at DPW, has worked with Weber the longest at 30 years and described him as a “great guy in general.” The two golf together at least three or four times a year.
“He’s always been there for the guys and will help you if he can,” he said. “He just has to work on his golf game.”
Weber started out as a driver for DPW. It wasn’t long before he was promoted to foreman, then to supervisor, and finally the acting chief of the highway department.
“He went from the bottom of the ladder right to the top,” said Picozzi. “He can do every job here.”
Through the years, Weber helped the City of Warwick when it needed him most. He ensured the safety of the citizens during the recent floods; Hurricanes Bob and Gloria; the winter of 1995, the year Warwick was hit with the most snow in its history; as well as the Blizzard of 1978, to name just a handful.
“That was probably the worst because at the time we weren’t equipped to handle that type of situation,” Weber said.
But he’s not complaining. In fact, he is proud he was able to assist the city during tough times.
“It’s been a great job,” he said. “It’s the type of job where everyday, every snowstorm and every flood is different. It keeps the job fresh. There are challenges but you just meet those challenges the best that you can.”
Yet, he didn’t take all the credit. He gave a nod of thanks to his co-workers and said he feels they are the best public department in Rhode Island.
“They made it easy for me to do my job,” Weber said. “Dave has been a great boss and friend over the years. We both have the same mindset and that’s to give the City the service we think it deserves. It’s too bad the public’s perception of our employees is negative because these guys work hard every single day.”
While he’s retiring, Weber said he would think of his co-workers often, as they have important jobs lined-up. After a while he hopes to get a part-time job, however, he’s not sure what occupation he’ll take up.
“I’m the type of person who likes to stay busy,” he said. “You have to stay busy to stay healthy.”
In the meantime, he plans on enjoying free time with his family, including his wife of 39 years, LouAnn, as well as his three daughters and four grandchildren. Of course, he also hopes to see his DPW buddies.
“I have a lot of good friends here and that’s not something that’s going to end,” he said.