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Jan 7, 2019 12:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Two Westhampton Beach DPW Leaders Retire After More Than Three Decades In Department

Westhampton Beach DPW Superintendent John Kearns receiving a proclamation for his retirement from Mayor Maria Moore on behalf of the village. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Jan 8, 2019 2:54 PM

John Kearns and Greg Liggon braced for hurricanes and snowstorms in their three decades of service for the Westhampton Beach Village Department of Public Works, clearing roads and ensuring the public’s safety.

Now, in retirement, they plan to hunker down with their families in the comfort of their homes when the winds begin to blow.

“I’d rather be home protecting my own house with blizzards and all that. If something happens, I’m there with my family,” Mr. Liggon said. “That’s one of the things that’s really always bothered me—just not being able to be there for them, and I had to be here on the job. But now, I can.”

Mr. Kearns, the department’s superintendent, and Mr. Liggon, the labor crew leader, are both retiring this month after decades of service to the village. Mr. Kearns was hired in 1983 as a laborer, and Mr. Liggon arrived two years later in the same position. “We’ve been friends since day one,” Mr. Liggon remarked.

Since then, they have moved up the ranks together—from laborer, to foreman, to their current leadership positions—and witnessed Westhampton Beach develop into what it is today. The village has gone from having nightclubs that attracted a younger summer crowd in the 1980s and 1990s to becoming an area that caters more to families, with a rise in the year-round population.

“It’s headed in the right direction,” Mr. Kearns said of the village. “I think that their plans for Main Street are going to be tremendous for them.”

The village has taken the first steps of a large-scale Main Street revitalization project that is expected to begin in the spring. It will include improving drainage, burying utility lines and adding two traffic circles, new sidewalks and curb extensions.

He said he pitched the Main Street project idea to former Mayor Conrad Teller in 2010. Although Mr. Kearns won’t be involved in the project’s completion, he said he will see it as an outsider when visiting the village for ice cream and pizza.

The men also got to see their department improve over the years. They have been able to receive lots of upgraded machinery and new equipment from the village, especially under the current administration. Both of them said in separate interviews that unlike past administrators, they never felt discouraged to ask Mayor Maria Moore for new equipment when they needed it.

“We’ve accomplished a lot over the last four and a half years together, had a lot of laughs, and I can honestly say it was a pleasure working with each of them,” Mayor Moore said in a text. “They will truly be missed.”

At the last Village Board meeting on January 3, both men received proclamations from the board for their service to the village, amid laughs, hugs and many “thank yous.” Police Chief Trevor Gonce even came up to the podium during the public comment section to thank the men and wish them a good retirement.

“You guys are going to be both sorely missed,” Trustee Stephen Frano said at the meeting.

Mr. Kearns, 55, of Eastport, said he became eligible for retirement this year and decided it was time to move on. He plans to spend more time with his wife, Joy, who he said is alone at home since their four children moved out.

The couple intends to visit relatives in South Carolina this winter and spend summers in Maine, where they own land.

“I’m really looking forward to not having to be on-call 24/7,” he said. “I’ve been that for the last 10 years as a superintendent.”

Mr. Kearns said that his favorite part of the job was working with men who were very cooperative. He oversaw a staff of 12 men—including his son, Lee Kearns—to maintain 26 miles of roads and all of the village’s facilities and parks. “It’s been a pleasure to not have to fight with anybody,” he chuckled.

His least favorite part, he said, was attending public meetings when they involved lots of bickering and upset residents. He added that those happened more in the past under previous administrations and not so much in recent years.

As for Mr. Liggon, 58, of Flanders, he plans to spend his retirement on recreational activities he has enjoyed doing for many years, including golfing, boating and cruising. He said that he and Mr. Kearns liked to spend time outside of work going clamming together in their boats.

He also wants to spend more time with his family. His only son, Jeremy, lives in Yaphank and has two children and is expecting another in February.

“They mean a lot to me. They’re my everything,” he said of his grandchildren. His phone wallpaper is the two of them dressed up in matching cowboy costumes for Halloween.

Mr. Liggon comes from a family of foremen. His father, Walter Liggon, was a foreman in the Southampton Town Highway Department, and his brother, Mr. Liggon’s uncle, Richard Liggon, took over the position once he retired.

“For me to become the foreman in the village where I grew up in, because I was actually raised in Westhampton Beach, that was one thing I can say I was always proud,” he said.

He said his favorite part of the job was that every day was different, and his least favorite part was working through snowfalls and hurricanes.

The men believe that they are leaving the department in good hands. At the same Village Board meeting, Matthew Smith was appointed as the new superintendent, effective January 4. He will be making an annual salary of $93,999.84.

“I think that from where he’s coming from, and from what I see on his resume and talking to him, it looks like he’s going to be a good match,” Mr. Kearns said of his successor. “The best advice is to listen to the crew and he’ll be fine, because they’re going to teach him everything he needs to know.”

Mr. Smith is coming from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, where he was the labor crew leader for the last 10 years, according to Mayor Moore.

“These guys leave a lasting legacy that, from outside of here, I’ve heard very positive things about the department, and I just hope that I can continue on their productivity and legacy beyond this,” Mr. Smith said at the meeting.

Mr. Liggon’s position has not yet been filled, but he said that the village will be hiring someone soon.

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Enjoy your retirements those two guys deserve it!! Thank you for all your hard work to the tax payers and also keeping the roads safe.
By watchoutnow968 (52), Southampton on Jan 7, 19 1:59 PM
Great guys, both of them. Thank you and enjoy your retirement.
By Jim H (2), Southampton on Jan 8, 19 6:41 AM
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