COLUMBIANA Rick Burt started his last day of work like any other day on Monday, waking early and going to the city's street garage at 7 a.m.
Burt has spent the last 42-1/2 years working for the city, most recently as street department foreman. His first job was with the park and cemetery department. He was only 16 years old and still in high school.
Monday, he did what he always did this time of the year. He spent the morning supervising the four full-time crew members with plowing and salting of the roads and fixing the department's equipment.
"This is all I know," Burt said during a brief break from his work. Moments later he would be back with his crew getting salt ready for another expected snowfall.
He had hoped to continue working until he had 44 years with the city, but changes to the Ohio Public Employment Retirement System (PERS) that take effect on Jan. 7 made him reconsider.
His supervisors, Service Director Jay Groner and City Manager Keith Chamberlin, also decided to retire before the PERS changes kick in and Monday was their last day of work as well.
An open house for Rick Burt will be held from 2-4 p.m. Saturday in the pavilion near the duck pond at Firestone Park. All are welcome. The Burts ask that gifts be omitted.
Combined, the men have more than 100 years of service with the city, Groner noted.
He recalls working "side by side" with Burt over the years and being impressed with his level of dedication, specifically his initiative to memorize the city's layout to make things easier for the department.
"He's been a good asset to the city," Groner said.
Burt said he wanted to memorize where all of the water valves and manhole covers were so that if a water break occurred the city wouldn't have to spend as much time trying to figure out which valves to close off.
Although it all remains stored in his mind, he has plotted the valve and manhole locations on a map for other crew members to use.
"Now they have GPS so they found more," he said. "You just try to do the best you can to better the city. I just enjoy my job, everything about it."
Burt will be replaced by water department employee Jesse Wilson. The move has already been approved by Groner and Chamberlin.
The two departments work hand in hand, so the transition shouldn't be too difficult, Burt said.
He doesn't intend to spend retirement not working. He already has plans to work with his brother-in-law, Kevin Dickey, who owns a construction business, and his six grandchildren will also keep him busy, he said.
He lives in the city with his wife, Terri.