Bob Burns wraps up nearly two decades as Gorham Public Works director next week. He has accepted a position as assistant town manager in Windham. Robert Lowell / American Journal

When snow flies this winter, Gorham town crews will be ready to roll, but for the first time in nearly two decades Public Words Director But Bob Burns won’t be leading the charge.

Burns will start his new job as assistant town manager in Windham Dec. 6. His last day in Gorham, where he has been public works director since 2003, will be Dec. 3.

“Gorham has been a great town to work for,” Burns said Monday at his office on Huston Road. “We’ve got a great team here at Public Works.”

Burns has headed a staff of 21 responsible for plowing and maintaining 150 miles of roads, equaling almost half the distance to New York City.

Gorham Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak Monday praised Burns and wished him well.

“Over the last 18 years, he has advanced all aspects of the Gorham Public Works Department and has been an effective leader,” Paraschak said.

Gorham Town Council Chairman Lee Pratt presents Bob Burns with a plaque of appreciation Nov. 9. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Paraschak said Burns’ ultimate replacement will have “big shoes to fill” and Windham is lucky to have him. Paraschak said the position will be advertised in the next few weeks.

“In the short time, the deputy director, Terry Deering, will serve as interim director of the department,” Paraschak said.

Burns, 50,  has helped guide the town through some challenging times and weather.

“We’ve had a number of FEMA events,” Burns said, necessitating his crews’ cleanup of downed trees and debris.

In 2007, the notorious Patriots Day storm in April lashed the area with heavy winds and rain, knocking out power. Microbursts have ripped Gorham and, in 2010, a tornado cut a swath through town, striking Burns’ own house.

“It took the roof off,” Burns said. “Rain was coming out of ceiling fans.”

Then there was the snow. Some nights during storms, Burns slept on his office desk.

“You have to put your life on hold to cope with the weather,” he said.

That was especially true during the winter of 2007-08, when 28 storms blanketed the town with a total of 131 inches of snow.

“It set records,” Burns said.

Another storm dumped 36 inches of snow in Gorham on Feb. 9, 2013.

Many residents over the years have called him with compliments about his crews’ work, he said, but some weren’t so pleased.

“We’ve had threats to shoot our plow trucks,” he said.

During the pandemic, he split up his crew for safety with half working out of a former Public Works facility and he ensured following proper protocol.

In Windham, Burns expects to be involved with capital projects including roads.

“I expect to learn a lot – develop my skill set,” he said.

Burns graduated from Yarmouth High School in 1989 and earned an engineering degree at UMaine Orono, and has worked as an engineer in Florida and Maryland. Burns, 50, and his wife Tracy, a Narragansett Elementary School teacher, will remain Gorham residents. They have three children – one in high school and two in college.

Gorham Town Councilor Ronald Shepard said in the November council meeting Burns’ departure as head of the department is “a loss for the town of Gorham.”

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