By Sue Moore
“Too much,” Ken Schippers murmured to Bill Adams, Vicksburg village president as the accolades kept rolling in at a gathering in the village manager’s honor.
Over 150 people turned out at Angels Crossing to pay homage to a man who is retiring after 23 years with Vicksburg’s Department of Public Works. He accepted the position of assistant village manager in 2013, then served three years as village manager. From the remarks offered by many in attendance, it was apparent that he has made an indelible mark on this community.
“That is an amazing tribute to what has been accomplished during his tenure as village manager,” Adams said. Speaker after speaker rose to bestow accolades on a guy Adams described as truly humble, who works hard and tells it straight.
Words like integrity, honesty, caring, fairness, listening, leading by example every day all came into play in describing Schippers. To start the event rolling, he was roasted and toasted by two of his favorite politicians. State Senator Margaret O’Brien and County Treasurer Mary Balkema, who had just returned from the Republican convention in Cleveland, awarded him with t-shirts that said, “Ken Schippers, make Vicksburg great again” and matching baseball caps.
He was given a legislative resolution from O’Brien, state Representatives Brandt Iden and Dave Maturen and signed by the governor, praising Schippers’ work for the village.
It read in part: “Ken Schippers does not step away from a challenge. In fact, he performs best when faced with adversity. Over the past three years, Ken has dedicated his time and effort to rebuilding his home town. Appointed Vicksburg Village Manager in 2013, Ken was faced with a real challenge. The Village of Vicksburg was buried in debt, was in need of large-scale repairs and was operating a golf course that had not turned a profit in years. Despite these obstacles, Ken committed himself to renewing a sense of pride and trust in his community.”
Kathleen Hoyle, director of the DDA stepped up to present a plaque that will be a reminder to the community for decades to come. The village has named the new trailhead at the corner of North and Richardson Streets, Schippers Lane. The plaque says in part, “Ken made himself available to the people of Vicksburg 24/7 in rain, snow, floods, sunshine and storms. His love for the people and the village as a builder and leader is legendary. To him, every effort was a means to make Vicksburg a better place to live, work and play.”
Jim Mallery, Schippers’ successor, described what it was like to shadow Ken for the last few months. He was charged to learn about all the things Schippers was involved in so Mallery would be ready when he takes over August 1. “He has a heart of gold and it shows up every day behind the scenes. Following Ken in the future will be like following Lou Gehrig, the baseball hall of famer.”
Charlie Glaes, Vicksburg’s superintendent of schools, remarked that Schippers personifies what a special place Vicksburg is. “He helps by partnering with the schools. Sometimes we don’t even have to call because he has already figured out the problem and has it fixed.”
Bill Hunt, who experienced sewer problems in his neighborhood for several years, told how Schippers got it done once he became village manager. “We are going to miss him for sure.”
Mike Oswalt cited a favorite saying in thanking Schippers for encouraging him to make a junked building into his company’s office space. “Ken works to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.”
Adams cited Schippers’ many accomplishments and ended with the admonition that “Ken will learn what the word ‘pro bono’ means, as he has volunteered without pay to mind the village’s water system until the DPW men are certified by the state to manage the testing.”