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Chester County Press

Kennett Township public works director wraps 40-year career

01/18/2022 03:43PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Richard L. Gaw                     Kennett Township Public Works Director Roger Lysle retired from his position on Jan. 14, after a 40-year career with the township.

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

On June 12, 1981, 21-year-old Roger Lysle began his first day as a member of the Kennett Township road crew by directing passing vehicles near a work site on Fairville Road that was expanding the road from 16 feet to 18 feet.

The new job represented a new beginning for Lysle.  After he graduated from high school, he took a short-lived position on the midnight shift at NVF in Kennett Square, where he made fiberglass tubes in the dark factory. He told his supervisors that this was not what he wanted to do for a living.  

On the advice of a friend who also worked on the crew, Lysle introduced himself to township roadmaster Robert Fuller to inquire about any job openings. He called Fuller again, and again, and after the third call, Fuller asked Lysle, “Good Lord, what is it going to take for you to stop calling me?”

“Hire me,” Lyle responded.

As one of three members of the road crew, Lysle began his new position working with a nearly-primitive road grader, a case loader tractor and driving a dump truck that had no heat, for a township that at the time had seven subdivision developments. 

In all kinds of weather, through several natural emergencies and 17 supervisors, he remained on the job for the next four decades.

Lysle, who retired as the township’s Public Works Director on Jan. 14, leaves behind a five-person crew, the advanced machinery and technology needed for a modern-day road crew, and a stellar reputation as a valued member of the township and the community he and his department served.

“Not only is it rare to have an employee stay with one organization for more than 40 years, it is even more rare that that employee would perform their job so selflessly and be such a positive asset,” said Richard Leff, chairman of the township’s Board of Supervisors. “That is Roger Lysle.”

“My dad always told me, ’Once you climb the ladder and reach the top rung, it’s only down from there,’” Lysle said. “I am leaving at a good point where I am still liked by everyone. It’s been a great job, but I began to get tired of taking my job home with me.”

For every public works employee in every municipality and every town in Pennsylvania, there are likely an equal number of stories that tell of late weekend nights clearing fallen trees from roads, assisting electrical companies during the repair of downed telephone wires during ice storms and helping those who have been found stranded in their cars during severe weather.

“I can remember walking down Centermill Road during a major power outage and asking neighbors if they needed help with their generators and just helping to keep people moving,” Lysle said. “I was a firefighter with the West Grove Fire Company for many years, and the biggest thing I learned from that experience was that emergencies are about the people who are in need of a response, not about the responders who arrive at the emergencies. I learned to react differently – to remain calm and focused on the job of helping someone else.”

“The staff will surely miss Roger, but I think the residents of Kennett Township will miss him more,” said supervisor Scudder Stevens. “In his years working for Kennett Township, he has without a doubt forged many relationships.”

His ‘aunts and uncles’

There is a quote – attributable to everyone from the Boy Scouts of America to environmentalists to parents – that says “Always leave a place better than you found it.” To those who live along Bayard, McFarlan and Greenwood roads to those whose homes are in any of the township’s many developments, they have always represented more to Lysle than merely clients he and his department do work for.

I have always looked at the residents of this township as if they are my aunts and uncles, and when I pass by their houses and see a low-hanging wire for instance or a broken tree limb in their front lawn, I take care of it, and that goes the same for the entire department,” he said. “It’s just about deciding to go the extra mile.”

For many of these “aunts and uncles,” the facet of Lysle’s presence on the job that many will miss most is his unwavering sense of decency and kindness, which he has delivered door-to-door and in person and rarely by e-mail. Several years ago, Lysle approached a homeowner in the township about the need to have some of the trees on the property removed for safety reasons. The woman disagreed, and advised Lysle to speak with her husband that coming weekend.

That Saturday morning, Lyle returned to the home and talked with the husband to again encourage him to have the trees taken down.

“He was right there in my face, telling me that there was no way the township was going to cut his trees down,” Lysle said. “I tried to respond to him calmly, and after a few more back-and-forths, he began laughing at me.

I asked him what was so funny. He said, ‘They told me that there was no way that I could ever make you mad, and here I’ve done everything I can to tick you off but nothing has worked.  Cut the trees.’”

There are people in Lysle’s life he will now have more time to spend with, beginning with his wife Anne Marie, his daughters Nicole and Megan and his 19-month-old granddaughter Brynn Elizabeth, whose photograph is posted on his cell phone. While he has retired from the township, Lysle plans on continuing to work – perhaps at a nursing home, he said.

“Anne Marie did all of the things at home that I missed, because I was here,” Lysle said. “I didn’t get to attend all of the Christmas school plays or be around to open presents on Christmas morning because I was out snow-plowing or taking care of an emergency at the township.

“Family means a lot to me.”

Lysle said that Brynn Elizabeth is excitedly looking forward to attending pre-school, and even has her own book bag that she constantly wears.

“I am looking forward to being a part of seeing her grow up,” he said. “She’s quite a young lady.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].