The city of Ballwin will lose more than 65 years of leadership experience when two long-time department heads retire this month.
Linda Bruer, who in 1984 joined what would become the department of parks and recreation, will end her city career Aug. 24, while Gary Kramer will step down Aug. 15 as the director of public works, a position he has held since he was hired in 1986.
Speaking of their many years of service to the community, City Administrator Eric Hanson noted, “Their fingerprints are on so many things throughout the city.”
He cited numerous road and bridge projects, parks facilities, including The Pointe at Ballwin Commons and the North Pointe Aquatic Center, recreation programs for all age groups, and the Ballwin Golf Club as examples.
Managing the golf club, its pro shop and banquet facilities were what brought Bruer to Ballwin in 1984 after six years as a recreation supervisor for the city of Ellisville. In that role, she had started and headed a program in which the two cities worked cooperatively to establish activities for seniors.
“I love the community,” Bruer said, “and I’ve always put a priority on working in a community setting.
When she accepted the Ballwin position, she was the only woman serving as a golf club manager in the U.S. Golf Association’s Midwest region. Five years later, when the city created a separate department for parks and recreation, Bruer was named its director, a position she has held ever since.
She ranks the planning and building of The Pointe as a major highlight of her career. The fitness and community center was built as part of a $12 million bond issue approved by voters in 1992 primarily to improve city streets. Opened in 1996, it quickly expanded to include an indoor leisure pool financed by a half-cent capital improvements sales tax approved by voters in November 1995.
“Working on large projects such as The Pointe has been especially rewarding. It’s a great way to interact with the public in getting their input – something I’ve always enjoyed – as well as with architects and contractors involved in the job,” Bruer said.
Bruer also has liked working with her staff, many of whom are young people hired on a seasonal basis for the department’s North Pointe Aquatic Center and other numerous summer programs. From a full-time staff of 26, the department has as many as 300 employees during the summer.
Not surprisingly, Bruer said she and her husband, Ed, plan to remain in Ballwin. “I hope to play a little more golf and spend more time with family and friends,” she said. Bruer and her husband have two grown sons. “My health is good and we want to do some more traveling.”
Kramer also is a St. Louis native, although he spent most of his early years in University City. After graduating from Missouri University of Science and Technology [then University of Missouri-Rolla] with a civil engineering degree, he worked for two consulting engineering firms before joining the Ballwin staff as director of public works in 1986.
Kramer said he also has derived the most personal satisfaction from working on the city’s major projects. Generally, those have been federally funded projects. He cited the need for keeping detailed records to show that federal requirements had been met and making accurate estimates on jobs years before they are started as examples of the many, varied challenges of those jobs.
He echoed Bruer’s description of the 1992 bond issue as a significant point in Ballwin’s history, especially regarding work on streets, curbs, gutters and sidewalks throughout the city.
From the beginning of his career until now, Kramer said the transitions are like “coming out of a cave.” Among other changes, the department has more than doubled in size as Ballwin has grown.
During the early years, Ballwin’s salt spreading vehicles had to be washed down outside because there were no indoor facilities for the job, he recalled. Similarly, road salt was stored on the ground until the city erected a salt dome in 2004. How much of the chemical washed away into the storm sewer network during rainstorms before the dome is anyone’s guess.
For many years, communication between employees in the field and the office was through CB radios that anyone could monitor. Cellphones, computer links and other more sophisticated means of communicating were beyond most people’s imagination then. And, of course, there’s the computer itself and its impact on everything from office activities to computer-aided design applications.
Kramer serves on the board of the Manchester Athletic Association and has been active in the Knights of Columbus. He also is a lifetime member of the American Public Works Association and the American Society of Civil Engineers, which has made him a fellow in the organization.
He isn’t sure what he will do during retirement. His two grown sons and a daughter, as well as two grandsons, live in the area so family activities no doubt will be involved. Also, he and his wife, Carleen, have enjoyed traveling in the past and more journeys likely will be on the agenda.
“I’d like to find something to keep me busy two to three days a week on a regular basis,” he said. “After all these years, I don’t think I can come to a complete stop.”
Hanson said he will wait a while before announcing plans to replace both Bruer and Kramer.
“I want to evaluate the interests of the many good, experienced people already here before doing anything else,” he said. “We may still have a search, but I want some time to consider our internal options first.”