It is, Richard Warren says, his job in a nutshell: helping people see the good O&G does in their neighborhoods. Tucked away in a no-frills office in Bridgeport at the company’s Bostwick Avenue operation, Warren juggles diverse duties, all of which relate to keeping O&G on a smooth tack. Appropriately he sits next door to what was the office of John Leverty, Sr., who for decades smoothed the waters as Warren does today. “The man was a master,” says Warren of his friend.
It was 1996 when O&G acquired the Genovese supply company in Stamford and Warren came with the deal. It was a part-and-parcel arrangement that has proven fortuitous.
He began summers in materials sales at Genovese, worked their sales counter and ended up in accounting full-time upon graduating college. He used his knowledge of their customer base to help O&G’s credit department integrate new clients. That was the beginning. But O&G saw the true “utility man” who had people skills and negotiating skills and a friendly, self-effacing way that put even difficult people at ease. So Warren got more random assignments.
His development was not unlike the route taken by others in the company, where a natural “can do” attitude was handed brand new challenges, leading to greater job opportunities and the evolution of a job description. (His card says “Facilities Manager” – it’s the best catchall he could come up with.)
About a year after joining O&G, Warren was sent into the land use arena where he learned to deal with matters that related to properties that O&G either owned, was looking to sell or wanting to acquire. His territory now is primarily O&G’s operations in southwestern Connecticut – Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport – and as far north as Danbury.
“I represent O&G on the boards of various neighborhood organizations. I’m a member of the Bridgeport West End Association which is a business group and the West Side Neighborhood Revitalization Zone. I’m also on the Stamford Waterside Coalition.” Though he’d be the last to use the term, he’s the company’s ambassador there, collaborating with city staff, other business persons and concerned residents to develop and execute strategies that improve life in the community. “My attitude is, ‘What can we do to help?’ ”
Paperwork is a big part of what he does. There are filing cabinets stocked with it, and neatly stacked and tiered piles of it lie across his desk and on makeshift cardboard platforms (read “boxes”) around the office. Organization is the job’s lifeblood. Property leases, contracts, DEEP permits, local land use permits, correspondence, documentation and meeting minutes are all filed away.
He rifles through one cabinet and puts his hands on a folder. It holds the releases, insurance forms and a parcel of other details surrounding the filming of movie scenes at the Canal Street facility in Stamford in 2007 on a Saturday when Sean Penn waited in the scale house and a crew of dozens took over the waterside to film a car chase. “Surreal,” he recalls. Warren was the behind-the-scenes go-between, ensuring that all the groundwork making it safe, legal and uneventful was in place.
As he did for the Italian fashion magazine that wanted to use an O&G quarry to shoot a new line of men’s clothing. He’d committed O&G to taking care of details – power, indoor facilities, moving equipment if needed – and felt obliged to be there that weekend to see that all was provided as agreed.
Warren has shepherded the preparations and paperwork for fireworks displays when cities like Stamford and Bridgeport asked to launch from company property. He’s been put on standby when nighttime rainstorms were forecast, ready to throw on a slicker and properly collect stormwater runoff for laboratory analysis by the DEEP. (His duties also bleed into environmental compliance.)
Something he has dealt with often is the thorny issue of gentrification. In urban areas with desirable shoreline, where for hundreds of years a revolving cast of industries have set up shop, companies are under pressure that seeks to ease them out so upscale housing and retail sites can take their place.
“We’re a clean operation,” says Warren, “but near a neighborhood we appear messy. We’re sort of like the airport people decide to move next to but then don’t want the jets flying overhead. ” It’s a concern Warren mediates, stating O&G’s position while seeking to find middle ground, “snug our activities tighter” and move ahead. “I’m proud of having helped negotiate a noise variance in Stamford and development covenants in Bridgeport which secure O&G’s rights to continue existing industrial operations even as residential development approvals were granted adjacent to our sites.” It’s the kind of utility work he does so well for the company.