So Long, Mike … And Welcome Back! Long Time Town Employee Retires, Than Is Appointed Belmont’s Tree Warden

Photo: Recently retired DPW Highway Department Director Michael Santoro receives a gold ceremonial shovel from Select Board members Mark Paolillo (left) and Roy Epstein as Belmont acknowledged Santoro’s 42 years of service.

It’s not everyday when the word “beloved” is used when speaking about a town official. But it is when talking about Mike Santoro, Belmont’s manager of the Department of Public Works’ Highway Division and assistant Public Works Director, who retired Dec. 31 from his post.

Mike Santoro

The soft spoken, life-long resident has served the people of his home town for 42 years, advancing from his first position as a laborer in 1981 to becoming, in 2005, the head of a department responsible for the repair, patching, and maintenance of Belmont’s 78 miles of public streets and roads and 97 miles of paved sidewalks, caring for the town’s sewer lines and storm drain system, and assisting in the care, removal, and replanting of Belmont’s 10,000-plus public shade trees.

And when a winter nor’easter deposited tons of snow on the town’s byways, it was Santoro who would spend days in his cramped, cold office in the pre-renovated DPW building directing an armada of town-owned vehicles and heavy equipment along with dozens of contractors in keeping the roads open.

“First of all, Michael, thank you for your exemplary service for our community. It’s been outstanding and we are going to truly miss you,” said Select Board Member Mark Paolillo at Monday, Jan. 8. “You always had an answer, you always returned our calls and you always have been incredible helpful.”

The proclamation noted Santoro was instrumental in the successful consolidation of the highway, water, cemetery and the parks and recreation departments into what today is the Department of Public Works, all the while working “long tireless hours” taking leadership roles on numerous projects that required a steady hand and a calming voice of experience.

“Michael has set a high standard of commitment and dedication that serves as an inspiration to the citizens of Belmont,” read the proclamation.

So it wasn’t surprising when those attending the meeting gave Santoro a standing ovation.

Santoro was presented with a going away gift from the town; a gold-colored commemorative shovel with an inscription on the shaft: “Michael Santoro. For his many years of Dedication and Commitment to the Department of Public Works. 1981-2023.”

“As I’ve been saying to everyone, it’s not goodbye, it’s ‘I’ll see you later’ because there are other things that I’m gonna try to do around town,” said Santoro, who was accompanied to the meeting by his wife, Susan, children and family.

No truer words were spoken as the next item of business before the board was naming a new town tree warden: Mike Santoro.

“There is no rest for the weary,” said Board Chair Roy Epstein.

After the retirement of Tom Walsh in July 2021, the warden post had been vacant with DPW Director Jay Marcotte acting as interim tree warden with Santoro assisting in the field. In the past months, Santoro completed the necessary training to be certified by the state to hold the position.

Battling A Blizzard: A Talk With Belmont Highway’s Michael Santoro [Video]

Photo: Trapelo Road, Belmont; 11:45 a.m.

Whether it’s a few inches to a foot or two, when snow covers Belmont’s streets, Mike Santoro is the town’s employee residents count on to keep the roads and parking areas clear and safe to travel.

With an anticipated 12 to 16 inches of the white stuff heading the town’s way today, Thursday, Jan. 4, Santoro, the long-time manager of the Belmont Department of Public Works’ Highway Division, will assemble up to 60 vehicles made up of town-owned trucks and contract ploughs to create a battle plan to open the town’s 78 miles of public roads.

The Belmontonian spoke to Santoro at the Town Yard just as the snow started coming down on Thursday.