After caring for the town’s oaks and elms, battling blights and infestations for decades, John Pinchbeck has retired as tree warden. And the town faces the tough task of trying to replace him.

Pinchbeck experienced some health problems but had hoped to return to work, First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the selectmen. Then, the tree warden decided he wouldn’t be coming back, and officially retired as of Oct. 31.

The tree warden’s task is “to preserve and maintain the safety of trees and shrubs along the 400 miles of Ridgefield’s roads,” the job description the town’s website says — and then it lists 29 specific responsibilities for the 20-hour-a-week position.

Just a few of the listed responsibilities of the tree warden are:

“Conducts inspections of all 400 miles of right of-ways, easements, town properties and open spaces for hazardous trees.

“Coordinates removal of hazardous trees, stump grinding and transportation of debris to disposal sites in a timely and cost-effective manner.

“Designs and supervises installation of new, appropriate and disease-resistant specimen trees and shrubs.

“Prepares for and implements storm-related tree cleanup and right-of-way clearance on a 24-hour, 7 days a week basis.

“Implements and develops tree replacement and maintenance plans.”

Experience

The personnel department also has an “experience/qualifications” list for the job that includes:

“College Degree in Forestry, Horticulture, Plant Science or related field or the equivalent experience.

“Arborist License, certification and maintain certification and licenses by attending educational conferences.

“Computer knowledge, tree and horticulture practices, contractor experience both in performance standards and costs.

“Knowledge of trees, shrubs, design experience, diseases and insects.

“Knowledge of tree law, contractor performance standards, OSHA regulations, electrical hazards, and knowledge of tree maintenance and species.

“Able to operate a keyboard, maintains files and records when necessary.

“Operate chainsaw in emergency situations…”

College, really?

The selectmen briefly discussion the position in late October.

Selectwoman Barbara Manners said she understood why the town wanted “someone who has studied biology and trees” for the job, but she wondered about the need for a four-year college degree.

“The person we’ve had filling in for John — Steve Lavatori — has those certifications, but not a four-year bachelor’s degree,” Marconi said

“He’s very good. He’s very responsive,” said Selectman Bob Hebert.

“I understand requiring having an arborist’s license,” Selectwoman Manners said. “But a college degree?”