It’s 7:30 AM on a bright summer morning and I’m driving on North Mountain Road to the town garage. As I go through the gates, a breathtaking vista opens up before me—the Wallkill River Valley with the highland mountains in the distance. Here is an amazing bird’s-eye view of the whole Town of Gardiner. This sight is the “welcome to work” that Charlie Haynes and his remarkable highway crew see every morning, weather permitting. In the winter, of course, when the crew gets called out in a snowstorm at 2:30 AM, they see mostly white; then, they try to remember that view!
Not just hard work, but maintaining a good attitude and a team spirit are what characterizes Charlie Haynes’ highway crew and Charlie is a big part of the rare camaraderie that exists among them. He is a leader who sets the pace both in physical work and in respect for each other. During most of my interview with Charlie he talked about what a great crew has developed. The team consists of the Superintendent, two full-time mechanics, seven road workers and the office assistant, Robin, who keeps the business running smoothly. Charlie says his mechanics and drivers are among the best in the industry. They can repair virtually any of their equipment, both mechanical and high-tech, including all the electronic equipment and software that runs the trucks and machinery. Not that long ago, Charlie says, you didn’t have to be a computer whiz to fix a truck. Now, you do.
Their day typically starts at 6:30AM. When there is a snowfall, the day starts at 2:30 AM. The team gets assigned the projects for the day and the week. There are short term jobs and planned road maintenance and road reconstruction. Charlie is also the person who must approve the construction of new roads for town approval.
Charlie started working for the Town of Gardiner Highway Department in 1979 as a mechanic. In 1985, he took the six and a half hour Assistant Superintendent of Highways test and passed with flying colors. Charlie became Walt Bartsch’s Assistant in 1990 (by the way, Walt is 90 years old now and was last seen under the kitchen sink fixing his plumbing). When Mike Calderone became Highway Superintendent, Charlie became his assistant. This year marks the ninth year that Charlie is serving as the elected Superintendent of Highways.