Monday, January 6, 2003
When Terry Nicopolis became superintendent, he worked with the people he supervised to cut overtime and rework routes.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
FTER 30 YEARS AS A CITY EMPLOYEE, Terry Nicopolis, superintendent of environmental services, hopes he's remembered for doing the best he could and doing it honestly.
"I hope I left the city better than I found it," he said.
Nicopolis, 50, wrapped up his tenure with the city, the past seven as environmental services superintendent, at year's end. Because of accumulated vacation time, his official retirement date isn't until March.
His successor hasn't been chosen.
He spent one of his last mornings on the job, bouncing between his cubbyhole of an office, the radio room to communicate with drivers, and the department's kitchen, where he was preparing venison with peppers, onions and Greek seasonings for employees.
He often cooks for the workers.
When Nicopolis took over the environmental services -- the sanitation department -- it employed 28 workers, had high overtime costs, poor equipment and was subsidized out of the general fund.
"I wanted to bring a sense of professionalism here," Nicopolis said.
Mayor Hank Angelo called Nicopolis "the most enthusiastic, positive" city employee he knows.
"No matter what the situation, Terry always has a smile on his face," the mayor said.
Angelo said Nicopolis had a vision when he took over the department and worked with the administration, council and department employees to implement it. That plan included replacing old equipment with updated, technologically advanced gear.
Nicopolis and the employees established short- and long-range goals. They cut overtime and restructured routes to improve operations. The changes also reduced the number of people per truck from three to one.
"We put together the routes using all righthand turns," Nicopolis said. "They had to follow the newly-established routes for three months so they would know their route inside and out."
After that three-month period, the drivers could make changes.
"One guy knocked 21/2 hours off his route the first time out," Nicopolis said.
Believing that the employees were the ones who knew the department best, he also had workers giving input on picking the colors of the trucks and helping write the policies and procedures.
The department now employs 15.
"He changed the whole system around," said foreman Robert Hill, who has worked for the city since 1971. "We were stuck in the Middle Ages."
Nicopolis used his business sense to improve the department, Hill said, calling him "an excellent boss."
Moving up and out
Nicopolis started his employment with the city working in the radio room of the police department. He initially wanted to be a police officer but decided to stay in the radio room instead, eventually becoming the supervisor.
He later moved to administrative aide under former Mayor Dan Sferra and was named to the environmental services post in June 1995.
He plans to spend time with his wife, Debby, and family, including driving with his parents to Florida to visit relatives, and working with his daughter and son-in-law. Maybe he'll golf a bit.
A former boxer, Nicopolis casts a formidable shadow when he walks into a room, but he still gets choked up when he talks about the support his wife has given him over the years.
She was always there to bounce ideas off and wasn't afraid to say so if she thought something wouldn't fly.
"I have mixed emotions about going because this is my baby," Nicopolis said, referring to the closeness he's developed with the employees.
But he said he wants a new challenge.
"I don't have a challenge here anymore and I need that," Nicopolis said. "It's time for me to move on. I want to see what I can accomplish in the private sector."