By Sue Moore
Three guys who take great pride in their work to keep the village of Vicksburg in tip top shape will be without their veteran leader, Ken Schippers, when he retires August 1. “Nothing will be any different,” said Randy Schippers, newly appointed head of the Department of Public Works.
“Over the last 19 years, we have learned everything we know from him. He sets the expectations really high by setting such a good example for us. He drilled into our minds to do whatever it takes to go the extra mile. It’s the work ethic that he has passed down,” Randy said. “I spend each night now figuring out what needs to be done each day. It’s never the same. We may have a game plan first thing in the morning and in ten minutes everything can change 100 percent and the day’s work just gets pushed back a little further.”
“It’s not work,” said Chad Schippers, reflecting on the satisfaction they get when they can see the results of their handiwork. “You feel good about doing something that the public will appreciate. We just cleaned around the mill pond with all the weed growth and before that we planted the circle planter in Oswalt Park that looks top notch now,” Chad said.
These two guys along with Jeff Pera the newest employee in the DPW, say they get along like brothers, but they aren’t exactly that.
Chad is Randy’s nephew. Randy is Ken’s younger brother. Jeff is the greenhorn who was raised on a farm in Lawrence and now lives near Barton Lake. All are taking the state’s test to monitor village water, which is a huge job that Ken Schippers has been doing for the last 28 years. It is specialized and full of math problems to solve. They have been studying hard as there is an incentive if they pass–a pay increase. Ken plans to serve in that capacity, pro bono, until they take the test in November. It is hoped that all three will pass it to give the village the security of having someone on site and on call at all times.
Public works includes mowing, snow plowing, decorating the streets for Christmas, leaf and brush removal, daily chipping of brush, water and sewer fixes, set up for special events, cleaning toilets, raking goose poop from the beach at Sunset Lake, monitoring and maintaining the 12 lift stations in town for the sewer and the 11 outside the village limits for the South County Sewer and Water Authority. The authority pays the village for this service of checking the pumps and fixing them when they get plugged up. “It’s amazing what people put down their toilets. We have found ping pong balls, diapers, rags, and even a rubber ducky,” Chad said.
“We work in rain, sleet, snow, hot and humid weather that can be physically challenging,” Randy remarked. “It’s a lot better than when I worked at Triple S and had 80 employees under my supervision. That was way too stressful, so when Ken called about working for the village, I was happy to join him.” “We could use one more person now that Ken is gone, but he has left us in good shape with the best equipment we have ever had. We learned to keep everything running with some superglue and duct tape. This is definitely an improvement.”
Ken focused on street resurfacing in his three years as village manager, Randy noted. “We have seen continuous improvements and now want to tear into the bricks in the sidewalks downtown in the near future as they are in need of repair. Probably what we will miss the most is Ken coming into the shop every morning to say good morning and ask about the game plan for the day.”