Former Public Works Director Mike Shaw retired in June after 25 years of working for the town. He is pictured here along Gorham Road, the site of one of the many infrastructure projects he has undertaken. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

When he was laid off from his job at an excavation company shortly after college, Mike Shaw thought he’d give snowplowing a go after seeing an open position in Scarborough.

“I went there and interviewed and was offered the job,” Shaw said. “I thought ‘well, it’s a job. I’ll do it through the winter, and I’ll get a real job in the spring.’”

Now he has a 25-year career with the Scarborough Public Works Department to look back on after retiring in June. The town will soon begin interviewing candidates to replace him.

Shaw rose through the ranks, from snowplow driver to public works director, and takes pride in his accomplishments.

“(Shaw) served the town during a transformational time,” Town Manager Tom Hall said. “He’s overseen a complete modernization of the Public Works Department’s operations.”

One of Shaw’s lasting impacts is something residents take for granted every week — he helped revolutionize how Scarborough disposes of its waste. In 2005, he proposed to the Town Council a trash pickup and recycling program involving garbage trucks with robotic arms picking up residents’ trash as they drive by.


“That’s a program you’ve seen a lot of other municipalities do as well,” Shaw said. “The days of people hanging off trash trucks and slinging trash into the back; it wasn’t viable from a safety standpoint and a labor standpoint.”

Driving around town, residents can also see the physical impact the former Public Works director has had on the community. Shaw has undertaken a number of large infrastructure projects, including the first phase of the Gorham Road improvement project and others on Pleasant Hill Road and in the Maple Avenue neighborhood.

The road projects go beyond re-paving streets for smoother drives. They also incorporate drainage and sewer improvements, as well as non-driver safety. The first phase of the Gorham Road project, for example, included the creation of sidewalks and paved trails for pedestrians and bikers to navigate the route.

That first phase was expected to have a $1.5 million price tag and cost the town $500,000 less, thanks to Shaw’s efforts.

“What really pleased me, and what I’m really proud of, is we leverage a lot of money from the DOT,” he said. “I’ve saved the town well over $3 million doing those types of things.”

However, Shaw is just as fond of the routine calls as he is of the big infrastructure projects.


“I get a lot of satisfaction out of the day-to-day stuff,” he said. “To be able to help our customers, who are the residents, that’s what it’s all about.”

Shaw also has a reputation of getting the job done.

“He always geared himself to his colleagues and other departments,” Hall said. “When you’re in a pinch, call Mike and things get done.”

Working in the Public Works Department, especially during the winter months, requires one to dedicate a lot of time to their job. It’s part of the reason Shaw sees many of his colleagues as family.

“We had weeks during the wintertime where we would work 100, 120 hours,” he said. “You gain these relationships with these guys – they don’t even come close to resembling a work relationship. It’s more like a family, including all the bickering and laughing, and all that other sort of stuff. It’s really kind of special.”

Scarborough has changed a lot over the years, a transformation Shaw has seen as an outsider, as a resident and as a town employee. He was born in Saco, spent a lot of time as a child at his family’s summer home in Raymond, and lived in North Windham for 26 years before moving to Scarborough three years ago.


“I’ve lived in this area for 55 years,” he said. “When I was a teenager, Scarborough was Route 1. To me, Scarborough was nothing more than a road going from Saco to Portland.”

When he began working in Scarborough, Shaw said, most of the public works crew were long-term residents, a sign of the small farming community at the town’s core. Soon, a wave of expansion began as Mainers from across the state began to see the appeal of Scarborough’s amenities and coastal location.

Now retired, Shaw plans to spend more time with his wife and spoiling their dogs and twin godchildren even more, he said.

“My job was pretty all-encompassing,” he said. “There was a lot of time away from the house and from family, so I’m looking forward to reconnecting with that whole side of things. First order of business is I’m essentially going to take the summer off and see what comes of things.”

Shaw appreciates all whom he has served and worked with in Scarborough and encourages anyone considering working for a municipality to give it a go.

“Police officers don’t just go out to patrol streets; public works folks don’t just go out and fix potholes and build roads,” he said. “I really would encourage anybody that’s at a crossroads, if you’re even thinking about coming to work for the town, or a town, to give it some thought because it is really quite rewarding. It really is.”

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