Out of the works

Rambadt retires from DPW after nearly 40 years

REED CITY — In any community, some people “have just always been around.”

In Reed City, one of those “always been there” people is Kevin Rambadt.

While he still expects to be around the Reed City area for a long time to come, Rambadt will soon be out of the public eye.

The longtime director of the Department of Public Works in Reed City is retiring.

For many, it’s going to be ... odd.

In many ways, for 30-some years Rambadt has been the personification of municipal services in Reed City.

But ... it’s time for change.

City officials are inviting residents and friends to an Open House offering a chance to say “Good-bye” and “Thank you” to the outgoing DPW chief.

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, there will be an open house at the Depot from 4-6 p.m. with light refreshments provided. This will be open to the public. All are welcome to attend.

On Thursday, Jan. 26, an “in-house” salute to Rambadt will be held at the DPW garage. This is for employees of the city.

Rambadt has worked for the city for 37-plus years, but now is looking forward to stepping back and letting “the next guy fight the battles.”

“This is something I’ve been anticipating for some time,” said Rambadt with a smile.

Rambadt began as a part-time employee in 1972 — a seasonal worker doing mowing and general cleaning work in and around city facilities.

“Whatever they needed me to do, I did,” he said.

“My dad was superintendent here in Reed City — from 1956 to 1975. When he passed away, I was offered the opportunity to take on the DPW job full-time.

“We wore many hats at the time — equipment operator, assistant water works director. There was a lot to do and a lot of different titles.”

In 1982, Rambadt became the superintendent of the DPW and has continued on in that capacity since that time.

“My entire work career has been here in Reed City,” he pointed out. “That’s not something that people can say too often.

“I feel extremely lucky to have held this job in my hometown — in the community in which I was raised.

“As a kid, I helped my dad doing the same job as I am doing today. It really is a blessing.”

Rambadt has worked with eight city managers — one of them twice.

He also has worked with many different city councils — good, bad, and indifferent.

“I’ve seen a lot of change in our community, and I’ve really been privileged to have had a little hand in promoting progress in our community,” he said.

“I always tried to do what was best for the community.

“I tried to keep a good grasp of the big picture.

“If there is any frustration I have had with this job, it is the frustration I have with the way small communities are treated by Lansing.

“I’m frustrated at the way we are mandated to do more and more all the time, while at the same time the funding that we deserve is being withheld making our day by day efforts so much more costly and difficult to complete.

“There are more and more people telling us what to do - people with no real interest in our community.”

Despite the occasional frustrations, Rambadt looks back fondly on his career.

“Overall, I have no regrets,” he said. “This job and the opportunities offered have been wonderful.

“This is a great community. I enjoy seeing how we get over difficulties and grow — as a community.

“There are good things happening in Reed City. We just need to keep a sense of focus and vision.”

It’ll be tough without Kevin Rambadt at his desk.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have a year and a half working with Kevin,” said city manager Ron Marek.

“I’ve enjoyed working with him, and valued his input and experience. He has been a tremendous help to me as I took over this job, and then as we worked together every day.

“Kevin has 38 years of knowledge about everything in this city stored away in his brain,” noted Marek.

“He knows where every water and sewer line in our city are located. He knows where everything is, and where everything should be. That’s incredible, and we are going to miss that wealth of information being so readily available.”

Rambadt’s duties will be taken over by Marek for the immediate future.

Some of the duties that require licensing and certification will be contracted out to external sources.

Other municipal employees will be certified in some of the jobs needing such licensing — such as some jobs with the wastewater treatment team.

“We plan on keeping the duties “in-house” at least until the end of the present fiscal year — in June of 2012,” said Marek.

“We largely will keep administrative duties in this office and deal with professional issues as they come up.

“Long term? We will need to be finding someone to replace Kevin.

“We will see what happens in the future, but I expect we will be posting this job before the next fiscal year.

“A lot depends on what council thinks is best.”