Gray’s public works garage has been renamed the LaVallee Public Works Garage in honor of Steve LaVallee, above, and his father, Neal. Courtesy of Tsukroff Photography

GRAY — After serving the Public Works Department for over 50 years, Gray Public Works Director Steve LaVallee will retire Jan. 9.

The hours are beginning to be a little stressful for me,” LaVallee, 66, said. “I’ve reached the retirement age. It’s time for a younger guy to take over and work those hours.”

Town Council Chairwoman Sandra Carder unveils the new name of the public works garage. Courtesy of Tsukroff Photography

Town Manager Deb Cabana said LaVallee, a lifelong resident of Gray, began helping plow roads when he was a teenager. His grandfather, Maxwell, was a contractor who plowed some roads for the town, and there was no public works department at the time. LaVallee’s father, Neal, later became Gray’s first Public Works director, and LaVallee worked in the department for years. When his father retired in 1994, LaVallee took over as the town’s second Public Works director.

He’s very well liked,” Cabana said. “He has a big heart.”

At LaVallee’s retirement party Dec. 10, over 150 people showed up, and Cabana said “there was not a dry eye. It was very emotional.”

At that event, Town Council Chairwoman Sandra Carder announced that the town had renamed the Public Works garage the LaVallee Public Works Garage in honor of LaVallee and his father.

LaVallee said he was “very humbled” by the gesture: “I cannot express my gratitude enough. I never expected it. It’s quite an honor.”

He is proud of “his guys,” his Public Works crew who he calls “a very dedicated bunch,” and of the infrastructure improvements that have been achieved during his tenure, including rebuilding 13 bridges and the construction of the new sand/salt shed and the new Public Works facility.

Steve LaVallee and members of the public works department pose in front of the public works building. Courtesy of Tsukroff Photography

LaVallee has also been a member of the Fire Department for 50 years and began as a junior firefighter at age 17. He was a lieutenant on Engine 3 and then Engine 1 and served as president of the Gray Fire Rescue Association for a year. He’s still a member of the department and occasionally responds to calls.

He has a wealth of knowledge,” Fire Chief Kurt Elkanich said. “He knows all the roads from those days at Public Works.”

LaVallee will be succeeded as Public Works director by Alex Dodd, who has been taking over some of the duties ever since LaVallee told the town a few years ago that he would be retiring. Dodd has been a member of the department for eight years, and LaVallee said he is confident that he will make a good director.

He hopes that the town will continue to allocate adequate funds to the department so that it can complete all the necessary improvements in town and keep the equipment up-to-date.

Retirement is a “different chapter now,” he said. “I spent a lot of days and nights out on the roads of Gray, and it’s time to slow down a bit.”

LaVallee will be missed, Cabana said, since “everybody just loves Steve. It’s one thing to come to work every day, but when they put their whole heart and soul into their position because they love their community, that just resonates.”

LaVallee said he has no plans for his retirement, although he and his wife enjoy traveling.

For the first few weeks, I’m just going to sit back and watch it snow and relax,” he said. “It’s been a good run. I’ve been proud to represent my hometown for all these years.”

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