Public works operations manager appreciates working his way up

Operations Manager Bruce Neidholdt with the city of Liberty’s Public Works Department prefers his city truck to an office. He has been known to handle a snow plow or a truck with a blade if needed.

LIBERTY — Often there are jobs that may not strike people as glamorous, but without these industrious people, a business or city may not function as it should.

Take the team in any city’s public works department. These men and women are tasked to help guide community development and maintenance through various divisions such as engineering, street and storm sewer maintenance and stormwater quality.

Sometimes, it’s all hands on deck when the weather turns bad. Some crews in many communities, including Liberty, have been making repairs and getting plows, plow blades and salt spreaders ready for winter.

One such person who has been the face of the public works department in Liberty is Operations Manager Bruce Neidholdt, who is one of more than 200 city employees total. Not one to sit behind a desk often, Neidholdt has been known to take a turn at plowing. While he doesn’t have a designated route, he gets out and answer calls for specific areas throughout the city.

“I have been with the city through all sorts of natural disasters and challenges from tornadoes and microbursts to heavy snowfall,” he said. “While what we do may not be glamorous, it’s key to daily successes for Liberty residents and those who work in the city.”

What would surprise people most to learn about your job?

“My job or any job in the public works field is 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “At any given time we can receive a phone call where we are needed to respond.”

What do you like best about your position or this field in particular?

“I enjoy being involved with projects and situations that help make our citizens proud to live in Liberty,” Neidholdt said. “One project in particular is the redevelopment of the streetscape around the historic Square. If people like it, there’s a little pride for myself and the team. However, a lot of what we do helps make the city safe as in snow removal, storm clean up and street repair. There is a lot of variety in public works; each day can present a new challenge.”

Would 10-year-old you be surprised that you are in this field or position?

“I would have been surprised at 35 that I would be working in my current position,” he said, chuckling. “I started with the city in 1986 part time reading water meters and helping out in the utilities department. I went full time in 1987 as a maintenance worker in the street department. I was then promoted to engineering project inspector, senior project inspector and finally to my current position as operations manager. I appreciate where I started and I feel very fortunate for where I am now.”

Outside of the workplace, when you meet somebody new, what tips you off that someone is another public works employee?

“It’s all about the terminology,” he said. “Public works employees have a terminology that sets us apart.”

What’s the most common question you get asked about what you do?

“Do you get cold plowing snow? The answer is no, crews have to have their defrosters on so high to keep the windshields clear that the trucks are very hot. Most employees will plow with their windows down,” he explained.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

“Prioritizing and scheduling of projects. Everything we do is seasonal,” Neidholdt. “There is a short window from spring to fall to complete asphalt projects, storm projects and our other responsibilities.”

What advice would you give someone who is starting a job similar to yours?

“For those looking at future management, I would advise that the employees you work with are your greatest asset. All of the equipment and resources in the world won’t do you any good without the employees,” he said. “For those choosing a career in public works, remember you are here for the citizens. Everything you do reflects on your community.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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