FALL RIVER - There is a new head of the Department of Community Maintenance and he's no stranger to Fall River public works.
Al Oliveira has been hired as the city's first director of city operations, a new position created as part of Mayor Paul Coogan's reorganization of city departments, including DCM.
As the new director of city operations, Oliveira will oversee DCM, the department of cemetery and trees, parks and facilities maintenance.
Coogan said his administration has been actively searching for the best candidate to lead DCM, and said Oliveira foots the bill.
"We've been trying to strengthen that position for a long time," said Coogan.
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One of the city's largest and most vital departments, DCM has been rocked by a stream of leadership turnover in the last six years, beginning with former mayor Jasiel Correia's reorganization of the department, after just a few months in office, that began with privatizing waste removal.
More recently, the department faced the departure of John Perry, who resigned in June after the administration conducted an investigation of potential wrong-doing, though the findings are still unknown. The Herald News has filed an open records lawsuit for the release of the investigation report.
Oliveira will head up a department facing a number of challenges, that include ever rising solid waste issues and upgrading a woefully out of date and underutilized public works facility on Lewiston Street.
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A qualified leader who once oversaw Fall River's school building projects
"Al's qualifications so far exceeded really any hope or expectation I had to fill this position. He understands procurement, he understands the union side of the job, he obviously understands facilities," said City Administrator Seth Aitkins. "He has done some absolutely remarkable things in New Bedford with how he's utilized his people. He's much more than a manager, he's a leader."
Oliveira, a 22-year military veteran, is coming to Fall River as the soon-to-be former director of facilities operations for the New Bedford Public School Department, where he's worked for the last 10 years.
But before his tenure in New Bedford, Oliveira was hired back in 2004 under Mayor Edward Lambert as the city's manager of municipal buildings and special projects, a position he held for eight years
It was busy time, said Oliveira, who at the time worked under former DCM director Ken Pacheco, who himself is now the head of operations for the Fall River School Department.
"I was hired in 2004 to oversee school construction. It was the largest school construction project in the commonwealth," said Oliveira, who holds a degree in facilities engineering and management.
It was a challenging undertaking, with the city construction four schools simultaneously: three of the city's elementary schools and Kuss Middle School.
As the school construction wound down, Oliveira worked assisting Pacheco, whom he considered a mentor.
Transition from New Bedford
Friday was just Oliveira's second day as director of city operations. For now, he'll be working a few days a week in Fall River as he transitions from New Bedford, meeting with supervisors and the DCM staff until he starts full-time just after New Year's Day on Jan. 3.
Before 8 a.m., he'd met with the facilities team and planned with an afternoon meeting with the folks from Parks and Recreation and Cemetery and Trees.
He said one of his immediate priorities in the transition will be team building and training.
"These next two months are going to be vital," said Oliveira, who will earn an annual salary of $140,000. His appointment must be approved by City Council.
This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Al Olivera takes the reins at Fall River DCM, part of reorganization