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Dachos retires as planning director after 33 years

Date: 1/23/2015

AGAWAM – Starting in mid-February, the Agawam Planning Department will no longer have Deb Dachos at the helm. 

After 33 years of service to the town of Agawam as its first planning director, Dachos is set to retire from the position.

Dachos started at Town Hall in 1983 when the department had little structure and lacked basic necessities, she said.

“Well, to be blunt, I didn’t even have a desk when I was hired. I went around and I mooched a desk out of a department. I asked if anybody had an extra desk and an extra chair,” she said with a laugh.

She eventually got the desk, and three decades later transformed the misfit department she joined into a well-functioning and productive part of Town Hall. 

What can be an overwhelming process – obtaining permits and knowing what role each department is supposed to play – became something clear and concise, she said, and it is something she has been proud to be a part of. 

“Having a single point of contact where somebody can come in and understand what the other department’s responsibilities and what their processes are in terms of time frames, and really the team approach, which Mayor [Richard] Cohen has spearheaded just getting all of the departments in one room to meet with developers so we can identify issues that might come up during permitting and address them before they go through permitting is really helpful,” Dachos said.

Aside from this, Dachos has had her hands in the major developments that have beautified Agawam and restored its historic appeal. Her largest projects over the years, the ones that were the most gratifying, were also the ones that expended the most time and effort, but so it goes.

From the work on Main Street that restored it to its historical glory to the near completion of the Connecticut Riverwalk and Bikeway, Dachos said she was proud to be a part of helping Agawam grow and that was also lucky, in a way. 

“I’m fortunate that in this position you can actually see the fruits of your labor,” Dachos said. “You can actually see the bricks and mortar construction of projects that you’ve been working on.”

Though she said that she was “idealistic” when she entered the position, believing she would be able to complete every project that came her way, Dachos said she quickly learned her lesson. Some projects will move quickly, some will not move at all and others will takes years, even decades, to complete.

“There’s a lot of public education and consensus building that you have to do in a planning position,” Dachos said. “Sometimes you don’t get it done at all, and sometimes it takes a really long time but that’s the benefit of staying with it for years.”

The other benefit to staying in a position for more than 30 years has nothing to do with project completion.
“It’s the people really. I live in South Deerfield and if I’m out and about in Agawam I see everybody I know,” Dachos said. “If I’m out and about in South Deerfield I don’t know the people, so I’ll really miss the people that I’ve worked with over the years.”

Dachos said that the town of Agawam has yet to start interviewing for her replacement, but that person is likely to be named in February.