Guy DeVincenzo, Clerk of the Works for Orangetown, worked closely with Scott Burton most of the past year.
Then he got a call from Orangetown Supervisor Paul Whalen Sunday telling him that Burton had passed away from a heart attack Sunday morning. Burton was 41.
"We're just shocked," DeVincenzo said. "Anyone who worked with Scott can tell you what a great man he was. Just a guy that talked truth, honesty and fairness. He was loyal to the organization. He was unflappable. This was a guy who came here from private industry and lent his expertise when we needed it desperately. We loved him here."
Burton, who had been an associate director for Pfizer's engineering department, was appointed Orangetown's Director of Environmental Management and Engineering in September of 2010, inheriting the need to complete a $50 million sewer project.
"We had 17 construction contracts semi-completed," DiVincenzo said. "He came on board and helpe dme close out the project. We got $50 million in projects done without a lawsuit, which is unheard of. He turned it all around. He should get 100 percent of credit for everything we did in this past year."
"He made a very big impact with the town," said Orangetown Supervisor Paul Whalen. "He was an outstanding individual who gave 100 percent to everything he did."
Whalen pointed to Burton's hands-on approach as an important part of his success as a department director.
"Scott led by example and never asked anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself," Whalen said. "If there were questions or problems with any equipment, pump stations or facilities he was in charge of, he would take off his jacket, put on work boots he had in his car. He’d climb down into ditch and first-hand see what the problem was.
"He was a consummate professional and he also had a unique ability to look ahead and see a problem before it became an issue."
Burton lived in Ridgewood, NJ with his wife and three children. He was well-known in the Ridgewood Somerville community, Dad's Night and as a coach in youth sports.
Burton had strong connections to Rockland County. He was born in New City. His wife teaches at Pearl River Middle School. Burton also leaves behind three children.
"He was a wonderful human being whose love for his family was undeniable," DiVencenzo said. "I feel terrible for his wife and children. To lose him at such a young age is a great loss."
Whalen said that the town council is likely to discuss finding a replacement in executive session at Tuesday's planned workshop and possibly begin a search the following Monday.
"I wil takte the responsibly myself and split time between town hall and the DEME department," Whalen said. "Someone has to make decisions until the new director is seated. I will go meet with the engineers and management people down there. I will see where we are with what needs to be done before Scott’s demise and make sure we have good continuity."
Among those needs are the continuation of a maintenance plan designed to keep the sewer system from running into the same issues that made the $50 million repair project necessary in the first place. DiVincenzo said that without proper maintenance, the very same issues could be there again in 10-to-15 years.
"He was just beginning to make the department his department," DeVincenzo said. "He had an open-door policy. He always followed up on everything we wanted. He was was a wonderful young man and a wonderful boss to work for."
According to Whalen, an autopsy was scheduled for today. Burton was with his wife and family in Vermont when he died Sunday. The family has returned. No word was available yet on funeral arrangements.