Hometown Heroes: Stability follows tragedy


Monitor Staff

Published: 05-02-2022 6:21 PM

Dennis Pavlicek took over as Newbury’s town administrator nearly three decades ago on the heels of a high-profile tragedy. His first task was a big one – rebuilding trust in his beloved town.

On a quiet Monday morning in the fall of 1993, while working with the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration in Concord, Pavlicek got word of an incident in his hometown.

“I heard about it in the office,” he recounted. “There was a shooting going on ... so I immediately wanted to go home. I did go make sure, you know. My family members were okay.”

Less than an hour before he got the call, a disgruntled taxpayer opened fire in the Newbury Town Hall, killing two female town employees, before eventually dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Former Newbury town administrator, Carol Hockmeyer, was also severely injured and brought to a nearby hospital.

The perpetrator, John Albro, the son of a Newbury selectman, had a reported longtime feud with the town.

For the next six months after the incident, Pavlicek and multiple other DRA employees were tasked with working at the Newbury town offices while they were trying to get back on their feet. After months of mourning and staff reconstruction, the town eventually recovered and Pavlicek went back to his old position. However, there were rumblings that the town administrator position would be opening up. Sure enough, it did and Pavlicek applied immediately.

“I found it interesting and that I might have some interest in doing it,” he said. “I’d obviously been dealing with town managers and select board members and everything like that for the towns and I was setting property tax rates for them in the past. I was like ‘Hey, this is an interesting position.’ ”

Pavlicek was offered the job in April of 1995, and hasn’t looked back since. However, his first days in office were his most pivotal.

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“The last thing I wanted to do was see that problem again,” he said. “So that was an important thing to go forward. I wanted to make sure I hired people that would be great for the town, and make it known that an incident like that wouldn’t happen again.”

Pam Bryk, a part of Pavlicek’s all-female staff, has worked as his administrative assistant for the last decade. She has cherished working under him and says she has the utmost respect for him as a leader.

“He’s a great person,” she said. “He does a lot for his employees. He’s very fair, very understanding if family emergencies come up, and has fair tax rates. Just a good leader.”

Pavlicek has now served as the voice of Newbury for upwards of 27 years, helping put together the town’s yearly budget and conversing with town officials to see how best to tend to the town’s infrastructure and overall well-being.

Pavlicek says that Newbury residents have grown to appreciate his candor with his decisions, as he is also a resident of the town; something that you can’t say for all town administrators.

“People realize that you’re paying the same property taxes that they are,” he said. “They understand that’s part of it and more that you’re working with your neighbors.”

One of Pavlicek’s crowning achievements is his involvement in starting the town’s Old Home Day in 2005, an event that has had extraordinary growth in that past 17 years. He put together a committee of six, all with different tasks.

“I try to involve as many people as I can get community buy-in because I think that’s really important,” he said.

The summer event now features anything from street performers to circus groups to food trucks, and routinely attracts hundreds of residents every year to celebrate the town’s history and allure. The highlight of the event is the fireworks show on Lake Sunapee, which garners more than 1,000 residents yearly. The charges for residents are minimal and are limited solely to food.

While Pavlicek has decided that his days in the workforce are soon coming to an end, he hasn’t set an official retirement date. He estimates that at some point next year he will call it quits, but in the meantime he expects to help with the search for his replacement. He also mentioned that he will likely move after his retirement since he doesn’t believe it’s in the best interest of the town to stay and hang over any decisions.

“I will probably miss the people and everything quite bad,” he said. “But there are always changes. And I think whoever comes in and takes over ... I hope that they’ll have it a lot easier because of the foundation of the people that we’ve had in the past.”