26-Year Veteran New County Roads Chief
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Rich Brimmer believes he’s part of a success story, and as the newly appointed Otsego County highway superintendent, he intends to extend it.
Selected yesterday by the county Board of Representatives, he was at the superintendent’s desk this morning, as he’s been as deputy superintendent since Bill Mason – “a great mentor” – retired last November after three years on the job.
Brimmer was asked to cite three major accomplishments since Mason promoted him from construction supervisor to deputy in 2016, and he said:
- Morale: As someone who’s worked in the department since 1996, the new boss said it’s never been better.
- Equipment: The county board decided, at Mason and Public Works Committee Chairman Peter Oberacker’s recommendation, to lease-buy 16 new trucks over five years, a $3 million purchase, replacing trucks that had been bought, generally one by one with state CHIPS money. The oldest dated back to 2004.
- Paving: In the last two years, annual roadwork has accelerated, including two major jobs: Route 14 from Hartwick to New Lisbon, and Route 13 from Morris to New Berlin.
Asked about Brimmer’s appointment, Oberacker, R-Schenevus, said it “reaffirms where we’re going, where somebody who started 20-some years ago, through hard work, can become a department head.”
He said the county board has been encouraging managers who are considering retiring to develop a plan of succession – Mason did so.“Bill did a great job” in preparing Brimmer, said the county rep.
The new department head, a Garrattsville resident, graduated from New Berlin High School in 1991, then worked for a local paving company that’s now part of Cobleskill Stone, before joining the county Highway Department in 1996.
Since 2005, he’s run his own excavating company on the side, and hopes to continue it, “if I have the time.”He isn’t sure he will, typically rising at 4:30 a.m., and rarely getting home before 5:30-6 p.m.
Looking ahead, he said some interesting collaborations to be specified later are coming up with the county’s Soil & Water Conservation Office, and he also sees maintaining good relations with town highway departments as a big priority.
On hearing Brimmer’s list of achievements, Oberacker turned them around, saying improvements in equipment was a big part of better morale.
“Put yourself in the mindset of getting a new car,” he said.“We were asking guys to get up at 2:30 in the morning, going out in the worst weather, and on top of trying to do the best job you can – then you have a breakdown.”
He also said the strategic paving jobs were made possible by the road-condition survey completed in 2017.“How do you know where to start if you don’t know where to start?” he asked.
One strategy that came out of the Mason-Brimmer combination was not necessarily to fix the worst roads first, but to ensure the good roads stay good. Over time, this allows county crews to elevate the overall quality of county roads.
While retired, Mason is still available for advice, and Brimmer intends to seek it whenever he needs it. “Bill’s been great,” he said. “He’s just a phone call away – or a text.”