John Bratschun will retire from the Public Works Department with more than three decades of service to the Village and the residents of Lombard. "Bratschun has been a very dependable maintenance worker in the Streets Division for more 31 years," said Dave Gorman, Assistant Director of Lombard Public Works Department. "He can recall the days when the Village handled its own trash and yard waste collection with big purple trucks. John collects motorcycles and is always on a road trip on summer weekends. The one he uses for commuting is readily recognized by its deer antlers. His work ethic and easy laugh has made him a valued team member, especially during long days of snow removal and street paving," Gorman added.
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Nineteen seventy-eight was a good year for Dan Simons. That's when his 34 plus year career with the Lombard Public Works Department began, as well as the formation of his second family.
"The single thing I have enjoyed the most is being with my co-workers," Simons said. "I have been so fortunate to meet some of the best people at work who have really become my second family," he added.
While the people have been the biggest highlight of the job, Simons pointed out that he is not a fan of some of the changes that have gone on over the years. "Changes have occurred, greatly because of technology," he said. "Texting has taken over a lot as a way to communication and it is so less personal."
Simons, whose tasks over the years have included snow plowing, repairing water main breaks, addressing flooding, and more, pointed out that all of these situations are highly stressful. "You always have to be prepared for any type of emergency that you can think of, and even some that you would never imagine," he said, "but it's extremely rewarding to be able to help people. I've always done what I needed to to get the job done," Simons added.
As for Simons' next chapter, he forsees a lot of golf in his "spare time" and some travel as well. Then, after some R & R, Simons hopes to secure a job in the golf industry.
"It goes by really fast," Simons said of his career with the Village. "I can still remember starting out and getting up at 4 a.m. and shoveling sidewalks at the old Village Hall…and that was using an old-fashioned snow blower that blew all the snow in your face!" he explained.
It happened during a span of 31 years working in the Public Works Department--Kent Hilgers became attached to the Village of Lombard. Hilgers will retire in May after spending his entire adult career working for the department and is grateful to the community for the opportunity.
The community connection began with Hilgers when he was 21-years-old and was hired in the Sewer and Water Division of the Public Works Department. Over time, he advanced to his present position as Civil Engineering Technician. It is the variety of the tasks, the challenges and the increased knowledge he would gain about the community that attracted him to the work.
"Every day is different. For the past 31 years, I've experienced a variety of work, from cleaning up the roads after snow storms or flooding rains, to repairing broken water mains at subzero temperatures to preparing for events during Lilac Time or other special events. I enjoy improving the Village and keeping the residents happy," said Hilgers.
As Civil Engineering Technician, Hilgers teams up with the Village's Civil Engineers for the Capital Improvement Projects conducted each year. "I help in the development and preparation of the projects and once the work has been approved, I keep the scope of the project in line," said Hilgers. The busy season for him always started at the end of May through November, before the winter weather sets in. "The Village's preparations for the following year's projects start immediately after the current construction season ends. We are always in the process of improvement," he added.
Hilgers has been a part of hundreds of different construction projects and road improvements around the Village but he recalls two in particular that bring pride to mind. "Working on the Main Street improvements and being part of the team that built the Veteran's Memorial at Lombard Common that was inspired by Eagle Scout Ben Pelz, are among my favorite projects," he said. "The Memorial was an amazing project and I admire this young man's ability to raise the money to see it completed," said Hilgers.
"I have met a number of people along the way from co-workers, supervisors, administrators, police officers, firefighters, contractors and many, many residents. It takes a team effort to get the work done. Lombard is, and always will be, a special place in my heart," said Hilgers. His retirement will include some travel to see family, golfing, fishing and getting together with other recent retirees. "There is about four or five of us who like to ride motorcycles. We are planning on meeting monthly," said Hilgers.
When Hilgers finds himself waking up at his usual 5 a.m. after retiring, he may miss his old routine but it will be Lombard that will miss him and the contributions he has made in improving the community.