SIDNEY — When a replacement is sought for four years prior to your retirement, it’s evident you are a highly valued employee. That was the situation for now retired Sidney Water Treament Plant Supervisor Larry Broughton, who also retired from his position as utilities director on Friday. He had been an employee of the city of Sidney for 32 years.
Holding both highly demanding positions regularly required 50-60 hour work weeks for Broughton. And although he and his family had been counting down the last 100 days, you would think he would have been anxious to retire. That was not necessarily the case.
“I’m going to miss everything. — I am. Bad. I like the people. I like the public. I understand when (customer) calls you and they are upset, they are not mad at you. They are upset at the situation,” admitted Broughton. “I like working with the citizens here. I like working with engineers. I like working with the people downtown. It’s going to be difficult getting used to life without it.”
Broughton’s wife, Donna Broughton said, “I am happy. But I am sad because I know he’s going to miss doing his job because he loves it. But I am really glad he is coming home.”
It was a difficult task to find a replacement for Larry, who possesses the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) required Class 4 operator certification to run Sidney’s Class 4 water treatment plant. Currently there are only about 60 in Ohio who hold a Class 4 out of the nearly 100 Class 4 facilities in Ohio.
Prior to hiring new Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Brian Young, who has a Class 3 and is working toward his Class 4, all other Sidney plant employees only possess a Class 1 or 2 qualification. The EPA is allowing a two-year grace period for Young to obtain a Class 4, at the Sidney plant. They EPA will only allow this grace-period once in five years. He explained that the stipulations and prerequisites, regarding years in the industry and years for an individual to have worked at Class 3 or Class 4 plant, and well as formal classroom training, make earning a Class 4 certification demanding.
Although, Larry was either in training or school for the first 20 years working at the water plant, he admits he is “against the odds of what a water plant superintendent and utilities director is” because he did not go to college. Instead, once hired full-time, he attended classes at the Operator Training Committee of Ohio (OTCO) to prepare for his utility jobs.
“The only way you stay ahead and up to date on the education and regulatory changes” is going back to school regularly, Larry said.
When he began with the city as a part time operator at the water plant in 1985, Larry said he never dreamed he would retire as the superintendent. When the opportunity first arose, he was uncertain he wanted the job because he was satisfied with his current company and had plenty of time for softball games after work. But Larry recalled with gratitude when Jim McClain, a retired water plant employee who became a long-time, dear friend, got an application and turned it to the city for him.
I would get the (necessary) education before that next job came along that required it. That way when that job opened up, I already had it,” Larry said. “The city has always been good about letting us go to school, because in the end, they benefit from it.”
Larry was a part-time operator until a full-time position became available. This is when he began his formal education to prepare for other opportunities in his career. Eventually he earned the promotion of chief operator, and then became the assistant superintendent, until he was named water plant superintendent in 2007. In 2012, Larry also became the city’s utility director. He said other applicants they reviewed for utilities director wasn’t a right fit, so he retained to position until retirement.
“He has certainly earned retirement. I wish him well. … It’s just that the institutional knowledge that leaves with him; you can replace the person, but you can never replace the knowledge,” Mayor Mike Barhorst said.
Two major projects Barhorst praised Larry for was his work with the EPA to expand the water treatment plant and the water well field project. Barhorst said Larry worked with the EPA for the city to expand the plant, opposed being required to build a new plant, as was originally called for by the EPA. However, Barhorst said he is proudest of Larry’s work creating the water well field. Barhorst said prior to the well field project, during a drought, there was some concern the city could run out of water. The new well field, which is in the final stages of work prior to blending with Sidney’s current water source, will provide plenty of water for the city for the next century, Barhorst said.
One of the major events Larry recalled that happened during the early part of his career was being the operator at the water plant during the great Goodwin Furniture store fire in the mid-eighties. He said typically they would have one pump going, but when the fire first started they had two of the four pumps going, and eventually had all four going full-force. He said they were proud they were able to keep up with the need of the fire department.
Larry said will miss his co-workers, although many long-time friends have already retired. He said they are caring people, which was exhibited when he had a severe eye injury that caused him to miss extensive work, and made him temporarily question his ability to return to work. He said friends, like McClain, regularly visited and was there during those difficult times.
“(This city of Sidney) has been a fantastic, wonderful place to work. It’s been nothing but good to me, Larry said.
After retirement, Larry and his wife plan to continue to remodel their home. They also look forward to spending more time with their children Larry Jr. and Brittany, and five grandchildren. Larry also is excited to return to his love of fishing and hunting.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.