Saying farewell to Sweeper Man

Ronnie Buerger, an Operator II with the City of Fort Saskatchewan, reached a major milestone this fall. Referred to by many locals as Sweeper Man, Ronnie hit his 45th anniversary with the Public Works department on September 5. On September 17, after Ronnie told his crew, City staff received a very surprising announcement from Ronnie’s supervisor, Brian Rogers. Ronnie had decided to retire and his last day would be Friday, September 27th.

  

It was a shock because no one ever expected him to retire. He never talked about retiring but said, “I’ll just keep plugging along.” Rogers had this to say in the announcement, “This change marks the end of an era and the start of a new chapter for one of our work family’s longest serving members. A moment unexpected, as more and more years were put under this individual’s belt without seeing even a hint of him slowing down. How do I summarize and express all the memories and moments that I want to share with everyone reading this? Stories that bring smiles to the faces of many who have had the pleasure of working with him and peaked interest in those who haven’t? I cannot. But, I can tell you many City staff know the respect he has gained by being told, ‘Don’t sit there, that’s Ronnie’s spot.’ ”

Ronnie’s commitment and dedication to his job is what his coworkers admired about him and why the community benefited all these years, whether knowingly or unknowingly. He laboured through seemingly never ending night shifts, clearing away Mother Nature’s snow so that we had safer roads to drive on. He spent countless hours and logged untold kilometers operating the City’s sweeper. He has in his time, moved a mountain’s worth of material with a loader.

Ronnie started with the Town of Fort Saskatchewan in 1974 when the population was under 6,000 and more than half of what we see today did not exist. Many, many times Ronnie was asked how long he was going work for. He thought he might work up to the 50 year milestone but instead decided that the time had come to retire. After all, he mused to a co-worker on his last day, “I’ve been making dust with the sweeper for 35 years.” Not one for seeking the spotlight, Ronnie won the special Spirit Award in 2009. This annual award is given to one City employee who is nominated by their peers for their special dedication and spirit as an ambassador of Fort Saskatchewan. Ronnie may have thought he was flying under the radar but his efforts did not go unnoticed.

Although the temperature on September 27 was suitable for snow, temperatures hovered just above the freezing mark, Ronnie spent his last day on his favorite piece of equipment - the sweeper. He made sure the citizens were left with what he had dedicated his career to - a beautifully looked after community to enjoy and be proud of.

Being a very humble man, Ronnie did not want a big send-off but his co-workers could no let him leave without showing how much he would be missed. Ronnie’s signature lunch box was auctioned off with all proceeds going to the United Way and staff were asked to gather at the public works yard for precisely the time that Ronnie would drive off in his truck after his final shift. Staff gathered waving signs of well wishes and even the Fire Department and Police showed up to turn on the lights and sirens in honour of Ronnie.

As some wondered what Ronnie would do on his first day off, others knew he would not be a stranger. He showed up Monday morning to personally thank everyone for their kindness and was very pleased with the extra light show provided by the Fire and Police departments. Ronnie also wanted to say thank you to all the JEG staff, the City Manager and Mayor and Council.

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As the sign said, you will be missed Ronnie. All the best in retirement.