2 voices for the city

Vukovic, Kalter saluted for years of service on Council

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Tom Vukovic and Roger Kalter, center, talk with colleagues on Marietta City Council Tuesday in Marietta during a reception for their retirement.

Marietta City Council soon bids adieu to two long-standing members and as recognition of their time on the legislative body the city held an open house Tuesday in their honor.

Tom Vukovic, 68, has represented the fourth ward for the last 19 years and for the majority of that time has chaired council’s Finance Committee.

Roger Kalter, 67, has represented the first ward for the last six years and has served most recently as the chair of the Lands, Buildings and Parks Committee.

“Both Tom and Roger I’ve known for many years both as friends as well as people who have served our city government,” said Willa O’Neill, chair of the Washington County Democratic Party. “Both have accomplished many things for the good of our citizens.”

Vukovic has said he plans to spend a bit more time on his bicycle crossing the trails of the country and spending time with his grandchildren now that he’s passing on the mantle of the fourth ward to Geoff Schenkel after the turn of the year.

“My job will be to continue to be involved in the community while working on the list of things that need done in my house, traveling, watching my grandkids in all of their activities,” he said.

Before his time on council Vukovic spent 35 years teaching and over his tenure has brought up different lessons imparted or the need for support for programs at the Washington County Career Center.

“He’s given a lot to the city and with every new council member that comes on board he tries to mentor them,” said Republican Councilwoman Cindy Oxender, who will be entering her second term as an at-large representative at the start of the new year. “I especially wanted to honor him today as the longest standing council person.”

O’Neill praised Vukovic for his willingness to help all other candidates in the Democratic party to succeed.

“In the party he’s helped us recruit candidates and helped with training,” she said. “It’s not something that he does sparingly. Tom was out there going door to door introducing candidates and also making sure the ones recruited know what the responsibility is of being an elected official.”

As an advocate of his constituents in the fourth ward, Vukovic has often taken phone calls while at home or on the road, but many questions have also been passed through his wife over the years.

“When he was recruited to be on council they asked my permission which I thought was funny,” said Anna Vukovic. “But they said it was only about two meetings a month. It’s definitely more than that. Tom’s such a good guy he’d help anyone he could, visit them at their homes, anything.”

And as a watchdog of the city’s coffers, the first question out of Vukovic’s lips whenever a project has come before council, regardless of which department it came from, was what’s the cost and how it would be paid for.

“Tom and I have built 10 budgets together and he’s very scrutinizing and has a lot of institutional knowledge that we’ll lose when he leaves,” said Assistant Safety-Service Director Bill Dauber. “A lot of the stuff he knows, much of it, the reasons why things were done and decisions were made, isn’t written in a handbook.”

That attention to detail was noted often throughout the reception Tuesday.

“It’s been interesting working with both of them over the years,” said City Engineer Joe Tucker. “They’re often asking challenging questions as we present projects and they get into a ton of detail but we’ve always been able to work well together.”

Walt Brothers, former council president in 2012 and 2013, noted both Vukovic’s and Kalter’s dedication to the city and their constituents.

“Tom was always a major player in working for consensus,” Brothers said. “And Roger just loves the town and he’s resourceful.”

Kalter said he is planning on focusing his efforts on projects outside of the bureaucracy of government come the new year.

“There’s still finding the money for the $2.3 million renovation of the Historic Harmar Railroad Bridge, and the need to expand our trail system,” he said. “Then protecting the riverbanks and planting more trees, and of course I’ll be bicycling. I’m buying an old electric-assisted bike too.”

And with accomplishments like much of the River Trail under his belt, none at the reception thought Kalter would slow down just because he’s retiring.

“Roger has been integral in organizing volunteers and getting people involved in service projects in the community,” said O’Neill. “I think he was one of the real agents behind the bike path and I really think that Roger’s leaving doesn’t mean he won’t continue to be involved in projects… just maybe he will feel freer to focus on those rather than the meetings.”

The new first ward councilman will be Mike Scales.

Tom Vukovic

≤ Age: 68.

≤ Years on Marietta City Council: 19.

≤ Plans post-retirement: Bicycle recreation, time with grandchildren and house projects.

Roger Kalter

≤ Age: 67.

≤ Years on Marietta City Council: 6.

≤ Plans post-retirement: Bicycle recreation and focusing on community projects like the Historic Harmar Railroad Bridge