Fields manages it all

Borough leader does everything from agendas to plowing

Borough leader does everything from agendas to plowing

December 26, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

McCONNELLSBURG - The only thing missing from Jack Fields' office is a rolltop desk.

Fields, 69, McConnellsburg's borough manager, begins his 29th year on the job next week.

He does it all. He has to. He's the only borough employee besides its two police officers.

Fields keeps the borough's records in a handwritten ledger on his desk. There is a computer but he rarely turns it on.

"I'm afraid of putting stuff in and losing it. I use this," he said, holding up his pen.

Fields is the borough's secretary, treasurer, building permit officer, zoning enforcement officer, tax officer, CEO of the police pension fund and chairman of the sewer authority. He prepares agendas for Borough Council meetings, keeps its minutes, recommends action to the council, does the budget and payroll, dispatches the police officers, paints his own office when it needs it and sweeps the floor.


A half-dozen old oak chairs sit in the office. Its walls are decorated with calendars, charts, maps and photos of Fields' grandchildren.

One of his biggest jobs is that of maintenance supervisor.

He plows the six miles of borough streets when it snows, sweeps the streets and sidewalks, paints curbs and crosswalks, empties and repairs parking meters, and picks up roadkill.

"This is a small town. You do what you can," he said. "It's something different every day."

Fields' office is on the second floor of the 212-year-old Fulton House, once a hotel. Now half of the building is dedicated to a museum run by the local historical society. The other half is used for borough offices, including the police department and water authority.

Fields grew up in McConnellsburg, the son and grandson of local barbers.

"I wanted to follow in their footsteps, but they wouldn't let me," he said. "They said there was no money in it."

Fields retired after 33 years as a sales supervisor for the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He supervised 10 service stations along a 180-mile stretch of the highway.

"One day I'd head east, the next day west," he said. "I had a company car. I'd get a new one every 50,000 miles, usually about every six months."

Fields has seen the population of his borough shrink over the decades.

"We lost 3 percent in the last 10 years. About 42 percent of the people who live here are retired on fixed incomes."

He replaced Edward Mellott as borough manager.

"He took his typewriter and chair with him when he left. I had to buy new ones for myself," Fields said.

Fields was paid $200 per month at first. Now he makes around $20,000 per year.

He doesn't see himself stepping down anytime soon.

"I plan on hanging around as long as my health holds out."

"This town will be hurting when Jack leaves," said Donald Peck, owner of Peckwood, a downtown restaurant. "Whatever has to be done, Jack does it. It's going to cost them double to replace him."

David A. Washabaugh, president of the Borough Council, said he doesn't like to think about the day Fields leaves. Washabaugh has been on the council for more than 20 years.

"Boy, I don't know where to start. I've tried to ponder what it would be like without Jack Fields. He's been the man of the hour ever since I've been here. Anything the borough needs to be done, he assumes the role and does it," he said.

"McConnellsburg doesn't realize what it has in Jack Fields," Washabaugh said. "He's very underpaid, but he's paid more than the borough can afford."

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