Rick Groves' last day on the job at Marietta's wastewater treatment plant ended with a farewell party, surrounded by co-workers, family and friends. He retired last week after nearly 30 years with the city, following in the footsteps of his father, the late Henry Groves, who worked in the city streets department.
"It doesn't feel like almost 30 years," Rick said. "I started with the streets department in 1981 where Dad began back in 1962. He was a laborer and truck driver, then became an equipment operator - he mowed a lot of the city right of ways.
"Dad was a World War II vet who came back home after the war and worked a couple of jobs before getting on with the city," Rick said. "City work wasn't that great in the early '60s, but it helped put food on our table."
Retiring wastewater treatment foreman Rick Groves, seated, is shown with son, Marcus who works for the city water department.
SAM SHAWVER The
Henry had to retire in the early 80s due to an arthritic condition, and died in 2000.
But Rick said his dad helped influence the decision to go to work for the city.
"I grew up around it, we lived near the city water plant, and I used to help Dad set out the pot flares around streets projects every night," he said. "I knew a lot of his co-workers and grew up with their kids. I knew a lot of guys in the fire department, too.
The Groves family
Three generations of the Groves family have worked for the city of Marietta since the early 1960s:
1962 to 1982 - Henry Groves worked for the city streets department, retiring as an equipment operator.
1981 to 2011 - Rick Groves worked for streets, water and wastewater departments, retiring as wastewater foreman on Feb. 28.
2005 to 2011 - Marcus Groves began in public facilities department, now working for the city water department.
"Back when John Burnworth was mayor we used to have a family outing every year for city employees," Rick recalled. "So all of our kids and families knew each other."
In 1985 Rick moved from streets to the city water plant and worked there for two years before transfering to the wastewater plant where he's helped bring the department into the 21st century.
"Rick was the first foreman in the city wastewater department, and was responsible for the city obtaining a vacuum truck, as well as video cameras that could be used to check out sewer lines from the inside without having to tear up our streets," Marietta Councilman Tom Vukovic told his fellow council members last week.
"Through Rick's foresight, the department has begun GIS (geographic information system) mapping of the entire city sewer system," Vukovic added. "And he's helped save thousands of dollars for city water and sewer customers."
Rick says current plans for upgrading the wastewater treatment plant are coming none too soon for the aging facility.
"We've managed to maintain and keep the plant operational, but a lot of the equipment and pumps are so old you just can't find parts anymore," he said, adding that a major breakdown of the plant's sludge removal system in January 2010 is a good example of why the facility needs an overhaul.
As the city prepares for that upgrade, Vukovic said Rick's "institutional memory" will be sorely missed.
Mayor Michael Mullen agreed.
"Rick is a good hand, and we're very sorry to see him go," he said. "Lots of that institutional knowledge goes with him. And Rick has become very involved in the voluminous amount of regulatory paperwork that has to be filed regularly with the Environmental Protection Agency. He'll be missed."
Rick is passing the baton to his 26-year-old son, Marcus Groves, who started working in what is now the city's public facilities department in 2005. In 2009 Marcus transfered to the water department.
"It's a great job, and the people I work with are phenomenal - we're like family," Marcus said. "There's a measure of comfort, too, because I already knew a lot of these people who were Dad's friends at work."
Like his father, Marcus is in it for the long haul, planning to make a career working for his hometown.
"It's kind of a pride thing," he said. "Most of us in the department are from this community, and we want to keep it clean and looking good."
Having a father with so many years in the wastewater department has some advantages, Marcus said.
"We might be working on a water line after hours when the other departments have gone home," he said. "I'll call from my cell phone and tell him where we're working. He can tell us right where the sewer lines are located in that area."
Marcus noted the city is going through a period of retirements, creating some turnover in the departments.
"We're losing a lot of experienced people," he said.
Henry Groves died while Marcus was still in high school, but he has good memories of his grandfather.
"We used to hang out all the time," Marcus said. "He got me started into motorcycle racing - although I'm sure my mom wasn't real happy about that."
As a quarterback on the Marietta High School football team, Marcus said Henry was his biggest fan.
As Rick moves into retirement, he's proud that his family will continue to be part of building and maintaining the Pioneer City.
"And it's not just Dad, Marcus and me - there are many generations of Marietta families who have worked for this city," he said. "For us it's not just a government job, it's more like a big family business where we help take care of our city."