CHAMPLAIN — Sicily, the Horn of Africa, Cuba, Afghanistan, Iraq ...Now add the Village of Champlain to Ian Fasking's work experiences around the globe.The retired Navy chief, 39, has signed on as Public Works superintendent here, and, with just a few weeks on the job, he's already immersed in local issues — such as coliform bacteria in a village water line."Your water is drinkable — it's potable," Fasking said into his office phone, reassuring a caller concerned about the report.It was just about lunchtime on Thursday, and water safety had consumed most of his day to that point.
He'd already visited Price Chopper Manager Jim Black to make sure he was clear on what was happening."We're in the customer business," the Public Works super said, noting such visits to larger users had been on his to-do list as the new guy in town regardless of water issues.Next, he zipped in his pickup truck to the border, where he sat down with representatives of the General Services Administration, which owns the facilities there used by Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection."I think the bottom line is, the good news is whatever's going on in Champlain's water is not affecting the supply line to our facility," Building Management Specialist Herbert Hodgeman said, prefacing Fasking's remarks."The line that was affected is not your line at all," the Public Works super said.The impromptu session expanded to touch on other issues, including the solution planned to remedy a longstanding problem metering water used by the facility. And it resulted in the coordination of village and General Services Administration hydrant flushing."I don't have any business cards (yet)," Fasking apologized as they exchanged contact info.Did he have a cell phone?Fasking grinned. "Yes, I do. It's a California number ..."
Most recently, he was stationed in San Diego with Naval Special Warfare, also near an international border."But no snow," he said, directing the pickup along Interstate 87, its wipers working and tires swishing through deepening slush.Fasking is still getting to know his territory. While he jots down directions to get from place to place, he's learned his way to sites of importance, such as where the village wells are.He just might not recall the street name. Yet.Former Superintendent Woodrow Kissel, who runs the wastewater plant, is Fasking's sounding board, his facilities tour guide.
For the next few weeks, the new boss said, his focus isn't on such matters as the new truck Public Works needs."It's to foster a relationship with the guys" on the crew. "If I don't have those guys, I don't have anything."Fasking's strength is in management.His last tour with the Navy — in Iraq — involved oversight of personnel numbering around 60, along with a multitude of civilian contractors.His aim is to create mentorships within his department of four workers, encourage pride in ownership, generate teamwork.Knowing how to run the show was a quality the Village Board looked for especially in candidates for the Public Works job, and Village Trustee Greg Martin found Fasking's management abilities impressive.And, the trustee said when he dropped in at the Village Office Thursday morning, "I liked his enthusiasm to take on a difficult job."
Fasking, whose annual salary is $48,000, doesn't have a great deal of background in public works per se.He did spend two months with the Navy drilling wells in a Moroccan village, he recalled, laughing."See, I had some village water experience."He's relying on his crew's expertise as he accustoms himself to department responsibilities."We're going to need to put sand down," longtime village employee Larry Sorrell joined Fasking in the garage, reporting worsening road conditions.At Fasking's OK, the plow truck roared to life, its high-pitched beeps signaling its rearward departure from the building. The superintendent headed for his attached office, where he'd put in writing the information he gave the General Services Administration.Then he'd monitor road conditions, probably take more water calls, and, at day's end, drive home to Morrisonville.That's where he and his wife, Tracy, bought a home a few years ago, anticipating his retirement after his 20 years in the military.Tracy works out of their home for the San Diego human-resources office of HSBC bank. They have two children: Sarah, 12, and Eli, 10.Champlain isn't Sicily, Yemen or South Korea. Nor does it have the glamour of Navy Special Warfare.But this, Fasking said, jerking a thumb at the Village Office building, "is a challenge.
"I treat this job as if I still were a chief."