BY TOM DALTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — SALEM — News flash.
Dick Rennard is retiring.
If you don’t know Mr. Rennard, he’s the gentleman you can thank — him and his crew — for the city being spotless the morning after Halloween.
If you don’t think his retirement is a big deal, consider this. As director of the Department of Public Works, he is in charge of some aspect of just about everything that makes this city go.
Think city streets, parks, playgrounds, cemeteries, sewer mains and pumping stations. Think snowstorms, floods and street sweeping.
These are the folks who get more than their share of complaints, but who really deserve the credit for keeping the city shipshape.
Rennard, 61, came here in 1982 to manage Greenlawn Cemetery. A certified arborist, he was later named city tree warden, and soon was in charge of cemeteries, trees and open space. In 2006, Mayor Kim Driscoll named him director of the DPW — or, technically, the Department of Public Services.
Rennard, who retires at the end of the month, is widely respected — credit he shares with his staff of nearly 40. “I have been very fortunate to have a great group working with me,” he said.
He started his career in his hometown of Wakefield and has spent more than 40 years in municipal service.
His exit is another blow for the city. Earlier this fall, Doug Bollen resigned as head of parks and recreation.
The only good news for the city is that Rennard is not taking his wife with him. Beth Rennard will stay on as city solicitor.
Do you remember the story last month about the pizza delivery guy who was robbed at knifepoint near Salem State University?
The Domino’s driver said he was near Bowditch Hall on Loring Avenue on the night of Oct. 11 when a skinny, white guy with a beard flashed a silver knife and took $40 in cash.
Well, it never happened.
After a few interviews, police learned the driver made the story up and kept the cash to feed a drug habit. He will be charged.
While nobody was looking, Salem police carried out a major undercover operation last month at all the local liquor establishments — bars, restaurants and package stores.
Officers Dennis Gaudet and Kevin St. Pierre sent two underage women, both North Shore Community College students, into every establishment to see if they would get served alcohol.
The same thing happened at every stop — they were asked for IDs and sent on their way.
“We had 100 percent compliance,” Capt. Tom Griffin said.
Take a bow, liquor license holders.
Two weeks ago, a body was found in Collins Cove. It turned out to be Gary “The Wind” Blanchette, a homeless man.
Tomorrow at 1 p.m., The Gathering, a small church on the Essex Street pedestrian mall, will have a service for him.
Gary Jobson, a renowned sailor and TV commentator, was at the Peabody Essex Museum last week to speak to the museum’s Maritime Visiting Committee.
Jobson was on Ted Turner’s crew (along with Robbie Doyle of Marblehead) when he won the America’s Cup in 1977. He is currently ESPN’s sailing analyst, as well as a lecturer and writer.
His visit comes less than a year after four-time America’s Cup winner Dennis Conner stopped here.
The PEM, by the way, is holding its annual gala tomorrow. It’s a black-tie affair, $250 a pop.
The guest of honor will be fashion icon Iris Apfel, whose designs were featured in a smash 2009-10 exhibit at the museum.
Apfel not only has great taste, she has great spunk. She came up yesterday from hurricane-ravaged New York for the appearance. Not bad for 91.
Give the Salem Chamber of Commerce credit for showing some heart.
During the madness of Halloween day, it put out notices in restaurants and retail shops asking for donations for the out-of-state victims of Hurricane Sandy. It asked each establishment to put out a collection bucket.
“As you all know, a major part of Salem’s tourism audience comes from the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut corridor,” wrote Executive Director Rinus Oosthoek. “While celebrating Halloween today, we would like to give everyone an opportunity to help the victims and donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.”
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.