By Leah Williams
Streets Superintendent Rich Schuette knows the city roadways well.
“There is a sense of pride that comes with the job,” Schuette said.
Schuette will be stepping down on July 12 after more than 41 years in the street department. Schuette began as a laborer on July 16, 1978, and he later became assistant foreman in the streets department. In 2005, he was named foreman and he held that position before becoming the streets superintendent in 2008.
Schuette said a typical day can change pretty quickly depending on what Mother Nature has in store.
“You just never know what you are going to get,” he said. “Some days are pretty quiet and some days they are lined up three four or four deep waiting to talk to you. You may think you are going to have a quiet day coming in but that could change really quick. You almost never know what is going to come through the door.”
Some of the most memorable moments over the past four decades involve developing strategies when inclement weather wreaks havoc on the area. Schuette recalled the 1981 and 1982 winters that blanketed the area. The big snow saw more than a foot of snow dumped on Southern Illinois, which caused several issues for the department.
“The things that stick out in my mind are the natural disasters,” he said. “Like the winters of 1981 and 1982. One winter we worked every day for a month without any weekends. Of course back then, we didn’t have the equipment that we do now.”
In 2011, harsh winter weather reared its head again with an ice storm that had covered the city and caused limbs and brushes to break from the trees overhead.
“It looked like a bomb had went off,” Schuette said. “We were trying to get the streets clear, and we had to make the call that it was just too dangerous.”
Schuette credits his wife of nearly 40 years, Lisa, with always sticking by him and understanding when people come up to them in public to discuss street matters. He said he is also proud of his two children, Zachary, who lives in St. Charles and works for Boehning, and Erin, who lives in Hoyleton and works for National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in St. Louis.
Schuette said he is thankful for the city council for being receptive to need to update streets equipment. He is also grateful for his employees in the streets department, including Amber Markwadt, who he says is his “Radar O’Reilly.”
Schuette said the streets department will have other longtime employees retire later this year. He adds that Nashville is in good hands with the younger group who “want to work and want to learn.”
“We are coworkers,” he said. “The only difference is sometimes I tell them what needs to be done.”
In addition to the city, Schuette has been a member of the Nashville Fire Protection District for nearly 32 years.
Schuette said many in the streets department share that same sense of duty.
“We serve the citizens of Nashville,” he said. “That is our job. Whether it is picking up their garbage or keeping their streets in order, whatever it is we serve them and there is some pride that goes along with that. There is pride when there are strangers who come into town and they write letters to you that say ‘Wow! This town looks great!’”
Schuette said he is also reminded when new citizens move into town and are able to take advantage of some of the services that are included, including the recycling program and the compost pile.
“They are amazed at the services that nashville provides for its citizens,” he said. “Lots of places don’t have that. It makes you feel good.”
Schuette said he has plans to keep busy and while enjoying the outdoors during his retirement.