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Merrimack Valley

January 31, 2014

DPW senior foreman named Tree Warden of the Year

NORTH ANDOVER — One could say John Lavin, senior foreman for the Division of Public Works, knows a thing or two about trees.

The Massachusetts Tree Wardens’ and Foresters’ Association agrees. The organization recently honored Lavin, 50, who started working for DPW in October 1997, as Tree Warden of the Year.

Public Works Director Bruce Thibodeau nominated Lavin for this distinction. When Lavin was recognized for his achievement by the selectmen Monday night, Thibodeau told the board the senior foreman is a “terrific town employee” who has been “a rock for me since I’ve been here.”

Lavin pointed out during a recent interview that he’s not actually the town’s official tree warden. That duty is held by the Board of Selectmen, he said.

As part of his DPW duties, however, he serves as the unofficial tree warden. In this capacity, he is responsible for evaluating the condition of trees growing on town property or on rights of way, he said.

If a tree is in danger of falling on a road or poses a hazard, Lavin is the one who recommends that it be cut down. He then supervises the DPW crew that removes the tree.

Has there ever been a time when he was sad about cutting down a tree?

“Sure,” he said. A few years ago, he and his crew had to cut down a weeping beech tree on the town’s Common. He estimated it was 125 or maybe even 150 years old.

“It was a beautiful tree,” he said — but it was diseased and had to yield to the chain saws.

More recently, last August, the owners of a house on Second Street tried to save an old maple that was in front of their property. The ailing tree was close to power lines, however, and an arborist with National Grid and Lavin both agreed that it had to be removed.

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