Friday, October 27, 2006

City employee ends 34-year run

Ketchum?s longest-serving employee, Maurice Pyne, will retire today

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Streets Department mechanic/equipment operator Maurice Pyne, the city?s longest-serving employee, stands Thursday next to equipment he?s spent so many hours caring for. Pyne will retire today. Photo by David N. Seelig

When Maurice Pyne clocks out for the day today, he'll be hanging up his hat—or multiple hats, in fact—for good. The Ketchum Streets Department employee has for almost 34 years served as a snowplow driver, mechanic, welder, inventor and general go-to guy.

Pyne, the longest-serving city of Ketchum employee, will be honored today by his fellow workers and employer for his dedication to the job.

That dedication as a mechanic/equipment operator will be evident right up to the very end.

"I'll be finishing work on a snow blower," he said Thursday. "That's just the way I am."

Pyne, 56, began his Ketchum career in 1973 with the wastewater department, first as operator, then as chief operator. In 1982 he transferred to the Street Department, where he's been since.

"I grew up here, and I've seen the good and the bad," he said. "I like the area, and I like the people."

A highlight came in 1994, when the department got a new shop. Previously, snowplows and other equipment were kept outside, requiring staff to spend hours warming them up before putting them into use.

"We'd come in at 1 or 2 (a.m.), get the snowplows going 'til 4 or 5," he said. "We kept track of our downtime just getting equipment ready to go."

With that information, the department employees finally were able to convince city leaders to give them a new building.

Pyne's longevity in the job never translated into complacency.

Streets Superintendent Brian Christiansen one year requested a new plow for a truck, but it didn't make it through the budget process.

Christiansen suggested to City Administrator Ron LeBlanc that he could find another way. He then turned to Pyne.

"He's had his hand in fixing, maintaining and rebuilding every piece of equipment," said Christiansen, who has worked with Pyne since 1994.

"He's saved the city tens of thousands of dollars by coming up with inventions," LeBlanc said. "He built a plow for one of our trucks. It (swings) in the middle so it can plow shaped as a 'V' or plow to the left or right. He designed it, and he built it."

Pyne also conceived the idea of welding a wing on the sides of a rented plow to make it more functional.

"He's a real clever guy," LeBlanc said. "There isn't anything in that department he can't do."

Training new employees is another skill at which Pyne excelled.

"He's hands down our best snowplow operator, and he's really good at training the new guys," Christiansen said. "We're going to miss that, for sure."

Christiansen has been busy the last couple of years writing down all the answers to questions he used to just pluck from Pyne's mind.

"He's got a good memory," Christiansen said.

Pyne has been a reliable source of help not just with unpredictable machinery, but throughout unpredictable weather.

"He's been a really good employee and a good example of what the city's looking for," Christiansen said. "Sometimes we don't know how long we're going to work for the day. You've got to get the job done. That's the first priority. Maurice has never had a problem with that. His dedication level is commendable."

Although Christiansen said some employees have Pyne's potential, the department will surely feel his loss.

"They don't make them like they used to," he said.

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