Steamboat Springs’ longest tenured employee celebrates retirement
Employees at the Steamboat Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant know Kathy Steitz as the “mother hen” of the facility, because in her 40 years working of for the city, she was often one of the only women in the group.
“I ruled the roost,” Steitz joked.
After 40 years of working as the plant’s lab manager, Steitz celebrated her retirement Friday. To mark the occasion, Steitz enjoyed brunch with her colleagues and spent the day saying emotional goodbyes to those she spent the past several decades working alongside.
“With the people I work with, there are some of them who’ve been there for like 30 years,” Steitz said. “We’ve had very little turnover, which I think says a lot.”
When Steitz moved to Steamboat Springs from Utah in 1981, the city was much smaller than it is now, and jobs for women were scarce. As a former nurse with a chemistry background, her options seemed limited to teaching, working for the hospital or taking a government job, and Steitz thought working in the city’s wastewater plant would give her an opportunity to learm.
“Back then, it was hard for women to find a job that was in your degree, if you had a degree,” Steitz said. “For a woman in Steamboat to have a degree in chemistry in the 1980s just wasn’t something you’d see often.”
Despite often being the only woman in the room, Steitz said she was always treated with respect, and her work was valued.
Steitz’s colleagues said replacing her will be a nearly impossible task, as she was a well-respected expert in the field.
“It’s really hard to come up with words to express the difference she’s made over all these years,” said Tom Delancey, Steitz’s colleague of 30 years. “She’s just super accurate, and her tests are just extremely well done.”
Though Steitz’s roles have varied slightly, her main duties were testing water that comes into the plant and is treated to go back into the river based on standards set by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Everyone who enjoys the Yampa River, especially Routt County users, are indebted to Kathy for 40 years of helping our wastewater plant operators,” said Gilbert Anderson, wastewater treatment plant superintendent.
Anderson said Steitz provided perfect results for each of the 50,000 tests she conducted in her 40 years at the plant.
“Kathy is the epitome of unsung heroes who devote their careers to safeguarding the environment,” Anderson said. “Maybe just as important, she made unglamorous work more fun.”
While the city’s records do not span the entire history of the city’s creation, Jennifer Valora, human resources and risk generalist, said their current records show Steitz is the city’s longest-tenured employee.
“We run the car and keep it running, but Kathy is like the steering wheel,” Delancey said. “She has to basically tell us where we’re going to go and what we need to do. She’s invaluable to this process.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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