Winner of first Ed Robb Award for Public Service looks to the futureCOLUMBIA, 10/31/12 (Beat Byte) -- A city of Columbia employee who has spent years seeking equity in utility billing is stepping down after nearly 38 years.He may run for Columbia City Council.
Given the Edward H. Robb Public Servant of the Year Award in February at the award's inaugural event, Bill Weitkemper started at City Hall in June 1975 and will retire as the city's sewer maintenance superintendent December 14.He stayed at the city for so long because "I enjoy being able to help people."
In his many roles, Weitkemper has helped city employees; utility customers; and as a private business owner for 16 years -- he co-owned/managed Eastgate Apartments in Columbia -- renters and their families. "I provided them with a good place to live and raise a family at a reasonable price," he says.Weitkemper's biggest recent role has been two-fold -- helping people with sewer backup and compliance issues, a worsening problem in the central city and older areas of town; and fighting his own superiors to keep utility rates reasonable.Fairly bill all sewer users, Weitkemper has publicly insisted, especially large companies and institutions that get special breaks in violation of city law.
As Weitkemper has shown many times, utility rates have risen dramatically because families and homeowners are forced to subsidize the University, shopping mall developers, and large apartment owners.The special breaks also cost City Hall -- over $1 million/year in lost sewer revenue alone."People should be treated fairly, especially by their government," Weitkemper told the Heart Beat.
Weitkemper began his local career 40 years ago at Engineering Surveys and Services, a civil engineering firm where he found valuable mentors "like my former boss, Jim Reed." He went on to public service, which runs in the family.His father Harry Weitkemper, 92, buys and repairs mobility equipment (walkers, crutches, wheelchairs), sewing machines, appliances, and other items. One year, he donated 30 new wigs to cancer patients who had lost their hair to chemotherapy. He has donated equipment to disabled veterans, domestic abuse shelters, and refugees. In 2009, Harry Weitkemper won a public service award of his own.Like his father, Bill Weitkemper has no intention of sitting still during retirement. He's considering a run for the 4th Ward Columbia City Council seat presently held by his friend Daryl Dudley, who has filed to seek a second term."Many residents of Columbia and the Fourth Ward have encouraged me," he told the Heart Beat.City law, however, prohibits Weitkemper from seeking any elected office until after he leaves the city, so he could not join yesterday's filing stampede to be first on the ballot, and will not announce any formal plans until after December 14.
Meanwhile, the longtime city employee says he will stay active with Boy Scout Troop 708, professional organizations such as the Missouri Water Environment Association, his wife, six children, and 14 grand children. "Columbia is a great place to live and raise a family," Weitkemper says. "I feel I can help make it even better."