July 16, 2021

In the public eye: Windham Public Works Director Doug Fortier

Doug Fortier has served as the director of
Windham's Public Works Department for
more than 15 years and has lived in Windham
since moving here with his parents in 1970.
Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

By Elizabeth Richards

In his position as the Town of Windham’s Public Works Director, Doug Fortier oversees both day to day operations and larger projects for three divisions.  The bigger projects that make areas of Windham better are what he enjoys most about the job, Fortier says.

“It’s when you do the big projects, the improvements…that’s the fun part,” Fortier said.

He cited a project on Depot Street in South Windham village as an example.  That project began as a sewer and water upgrade, but now includes plans to rebuild the road and upgrade pedestrian access and lighting.  It’s satisfying, he said, to improve a road, or a section of a road, so that when the project is finished, they can say they made it more livable, walkable, and more pedestrian friendly.

It’s also exciting to go from wondering if an initial idea is possible to completion of the project, he said. 

Another project is likely to be approved as a Maine DOT Municipal Partner Initiative, where the state pays for 50 percent of the project, Fortier said, is improvements at the intersection of River Road and Route 202.  He said this project would include improved drainage, widening intersections, putting in crosswalks and a sidewalk to South Windham Village.

“It’s projects like that. When they go through, that’s the fun part. When you look back and say that’s better, it’s safer, it’s better than what it was,” he said.

The three divisions Fortier oversees are: Highway Maintenance, which includes winter plowing as well as maintaining all town roads, ditches, shoulders, drainage and other infrastructures; Vehicle maintenance, which includes maintenance of all equipment from excavators and backhoes down to chain saws and hand compactors, Fortier said, as well as the police and town office vehicles; and Buildings & Grounds, which includes care of over 20 town cemeteries, nine municipal buildings, and two intersections.

His job includes budgeting, seeking grant money for roads, working on capital equipment replacement plans, getting bids for anything from equipment purchase to buying winter sand and salt.  Currently, he said, he’s gearing up to get bids for next winter.  The two major seasons for the department are winter and summer, and Fortier said he always has to be thinking a season ahead.

Another part of his job is hiring when there are vacancies, which can be a challenge at times, especially right now. Fortier said that anyone in construction, whether private or public, is looking for qualified help.

“It’s a very tough market right now,” he said.  “Eventually, it will swing and when you have an opening you have a dozen applications. It’s the ebb and flow of the economy. I’ve seen it going both ways.” 

Both day to day operations and big projects require a lot of collaboration, Fortier said, with supervisors, other departments, the town manager and the town council.

“We’re not an island by ourselves,” Fortier said. 

When the Public Works department can do projects instead of contracting them out, he said, it can save the town a lot of money. Without the support of the manager and council, the job would be very difficult, he said. 

“We’re lucky that we do get supported,” Fortier said.

One of the main challenges he finds in the job is being able to do everything they need to with the current size of the crew.  While not a challenge unique to his department, he said, there is more they could do but don’t have the crew for. 

“The biggest challenge is utilizing your people in the most efficient, advantageous way,” he said. 

Sometimes, that means having to say they can’t do something because of other, more pressing priorities.  

For fun, Fortier plays golf and stays active with his partner, Ginny Nadeau. The two enjoy hiking, kayaking, going to the gym, and other active pursuits.

“We’re not going to sit around,” he said, though he was slowed down a bit this spring by a broken ankle, now healed.

According to Fortier, he’s lived in Windham since moving here with his parents in 1970.  He currently lives on land that his great grandfather purchased for his dairy farm around 1901. Fortier’s parents started a Christmas Tree farm on that land, which he continues to operate.

Fortier has been the director of Windham’s Public Works Department for more than 15 years. < 

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