Thomas C. Jones II has been named the new highway superintendent for the Town of Tonawanda.
He had been highway general foreman, and was selected to replace William E. Swanson, whose retirement was accepted Monday night by the Town of Tonawanda Board.
The timing of the new appointment was noteworthy as the area prepared for a March snowstorm. This snowstorm will be the first one Swanson has sat out in 41 years. But Jones, with more than 30 years of experience under his belt, appears ready to make the transition.
"We've been preparing for three days," Jones said of the storm. "This is business as usual for us. We've got our full crews out."
Swanson was asked if he was planning to stay on until midnight to deal with the storm.
"I'm done at 7 p.m. but it will be hard not to think about it," he said. "I've been doing this for two-thirds of my life."
Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger accepted Swanson's resignation with a "heavy heart" and presented him with a certificate of recognition for his years of service. Dozens of highway employees filled Town Hall Monday to recognize Swanson and welcome Jones.
"Our highway department is probably by far the best around," said Councilor Lisa M. Chimera. "When we go out we just expect our roads will be plowed perfectly and our garbage will be picked up, our recycling is going to be done, our trees are going to be taken care of. We owe you a large thank you because your leadership has allowed us to be the best around. You have such respect and admiration from your workers because you rose through the ranks."
Swanson had been highway superintendent for the past six years, but he worked for the town for the past 41 years, starting on the job at age 19. He served as supervisor of the forestry department during the October Surprise storm in 2006, when thousands of trees were destroyed, and was instrumental in establishing a tree farm at the Riverside Boys and Girls Club.
"I've loved it," Swanson said of his job of highway superintendent when he spoke to The Buffalo News last month about his planned retirement. "I only wish I had done it when I was younger."
Swanson, 60, went on medical leave on Dec. 30 when he suffered a heart attack in the Erie County Courthouse, while attending the swearing-in ceremony of Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. Swanson returned to his job briefly and officially retired on Monday.
"I'm going to miss everybody, there's no doubt about it," Swanson told The News.
Jones had served as acting superintendent for a few months when Swanson was absent.
In a written statement to the board, Swanson said that he never imagined he would spend 41 years serving the residents of Tonawanda and was "humbled by the trust" that was put in him when he was elected superintendent in 2011.
He wrote that he was proud of being a leader in Western New York – with the town making its own salt brine to plow the roads more effectively and being the first community to own a road milling machine, which allows the town to pave the roads more efficiently. He noted that the town also has its own municipal sanitation and recycling collection, which will be made more effective when it switches to totes later this summer.
Jones also began as a laborer in the highway department, starting in 1984, as an equipment operator, then moving from auto mechanic to crew chief overseeing daily operations of the highway department. He was appointed general foreman in 2013, where he oversees the daily operation of the highway department.
"I could not be happier for Tom and I commend the board for choosing him as the next superintendent," Swanson wrote of his successor. "I can think of no better choice and I am proud to offer him my wholehearted support."
The role of highway superintendent is a four-year, elected position and Jones will have to run for election in November to remain in the top spot. He said he plans to run for election.
Tonawanda temporarily reinstated its overnight parking ban. No overnight parking will be allowed through Saturday to make room for plows and emergency vehicles, said Emminger.