After over 15 years at the helm of the city of Brookfield's fleet of snowplows and leading its highway department, superintendent Terry Starns is retiring at the end of this month.
He first joined the city to lead the department in October 2000. He came to Brookfield from Rock Island, Illinois, and has worked in public works all his life.
'I've worked in the engineering and public works field since I was 14 years old,' Starns said. 'I started off as an engineering technician and did that until I switched over to operations and maintenance. It's been a fulfillment being able to do this.'
Starns and his supervisor Tom Grisa, the city's director of public works, both recall the first winter that Starns spent in Brookfield.
'His first year here in December of 2000 we had 48 inches of snow. I remember Terry saying 'What did I get into?'' Grisa said. 'We've had not only impressive snow events, but we had 100-year floods and at least two wind-shear incidents. Terry impressed us from day one.'
In addition to his handling of weather-related issues in Brookfield, Grisa credits Starns with having helped to advance the department in its day-to-day operations.
'He's really brought computer technology to our division,' Grisa said.
Some of Starns' favorite memories in his decade-and-a-half tenure include moving into the city's new public works building, and his everyday interaction with staff.
'The team-building has been a really positive memory,' Starns said. 'Also, of course, the new building. That was one of the fun incentives of when I was offered this position. I knew they were drawing up plans for a new public works facility so I was able to be on the ground floor with that.'
In addition to supervising plowing, Starns' duties include supervising all maintenance within the public right-of-ways of the city, including tree work.
'Very easily, the worst winter we had was 2007 to 2008. That was the second snowiest winter on record in Wisconsin; we had 99.1 inches,' Starns said. 'It was brutal, and we ran out of salt.'
Starns recalled not being able to find any salt from distributors for the city and having to resort to buying extra supplies from the city of St. Louis.
'I've had some great leadership over the years from the public works director with the city of Rock Island, Robert Hawes,' Starns said. 'And of course the key people here, Tom Grisa, he's a brilliant guy and a good leader. The city of Brookfield is very lucky to have him.'
In addition to Grisa, Starns extended thanks to Mayor Steve Ponto, Director of Finance Robert Scott and his own staff.
'We've got a good team of guys here who really care about taking care of the city, and they make me look good,' Starns said.
Starns and his wife, Becky, plan to move back to their home state of Iowa later this year, where Starns will work as a parish life coordinator for St. Andrew Church in Blue Grass, near Davenport.
'I was ordained as a permanent deacon in the Catholic church in 1992 and I've always been active in the ministry,' Starns said. 'I have kept in touch with the church both in Iowa and the church here in Milwaukee, and the bishop of Davenport offered me a position. So I will be retired a whopping three months.'
Starns has four daughters: Rachel, Heather, Teresa and Katie, and four grandchildren.
'I've never had a regret in the whole 15 years that Terry has been here,' Grisa said. 'He's always done what we expected him to do and more. We're very disappointed to have him leave, but I understand and wish him the very best.'