City employee retires after 43 years of serviceWORTHINGTON — Steve DeGroot started his summer job in 1968 at the Public Works Department for the City of Worthington while waiting for classes to begin at the Jackson vocational school. Forty-three years later, DeGroot is calling it quits as he retires this Friday.
WORTHINGTON — Steve DeGroot started his summer job in 1968 at the Public Works Department for the City of Worthington while waiting for classes to begin at the Jackson vocational school. Forty-three years later, DeGroot is calling it quits as he retires this Friday.
“I started right out of high school in May,” DeGroot said. “At the end of the summer, the foreman of the sewer department said ‘Why don’t you just stay here and work?’”
DeGroot had his foot in the door by conducting maintenance for sanitary and storm sewers. Ten years after that, he took a street operator position.
“I liked running the heavier equipment better than I did working on storm sewer and sanitary,” he said. “I liked the construction end of it. The thing I like about it the most is that you’re not always doing the same thing.”
As a street operator, he worked his way up the ladder to become a foreman, and finally, the street supervisor for the city.
“I’m responsible for all the maintenance on the roads —the black top and concrete, maintenance on storm sewer and maintenance at the airport,” he explained. “In the winter, we did remodeling projects if we weren’t plowing snow.”
He further detailed that a large portion of an open winter season — like this year’s — is spent trimming the boulevard trees around the city.
“This year they trimmed a lot, and they’re still trimming,” he said with a laugh. “If you keep up with the trimming, there’s a lot less wind damage in the summer.”
DeGroot remembers numerous incidents involving Mother Nature, especially during harsh winter months.
“When we had that blizzard in January of 1975, we worked all day on Friday,” he said. “I went home for an hour, and they called us to come back. I didn’t get home again until Sunday afternoon.
“The last two winters, there was a lot time spent on the plows and blowers.”
Over the years, the city workers have developed snow-removal strategies.
“We come in at midnight or 1 in the morning, and we’ll plow the whole town,” DeGroot explained. “If the wind is blowing hard, we’ll concentrate to the center of town and then work our way out when the wind lets up.”
Like any job, experience is the key for snow removal, he said.
“It’s just repetition, and we got good at it,” he added.
With his last day approaching fast, DeGroot has no solid post-retirement plans, but he has some ideas of how he wants to spend his time.
“I’m sure the wife’s got some plans for me, though. She’ll always have a list to do,” he said with a laugh. “I might go out and help my brother at his repair shop, but I’m not going to make a schedule.”
The city staff will host a retirement open house for DeGroot from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday in the conference room of Worthington City Hall, 303 Ninth St. The public is welcome to attend.