Northfield Center road superintendent Chuck Pickering retires after 40 years of service to township

by Jeff Saunders | Reporter Published:

Northfield Center -- Chuck Pickering's retirement at the end of 2012 after 30 years as road superintendent is likely to be his last from a township position, but it was not his first.

Township Trustees honored Pickering, 69, with a proclamation Jan. 7 for not three, but four decades of service, noting that he also served on the township's former fire department for 28 years, including a term as fire chief.

"Chuck's a very dedicated person," said Trustee Paul Buescher. "Chuck was good to the residents, reacted to their needs and was on top of things."

The Trustees also approved the appointment of Rick Youell, Pickering's assistant and an 18-year road department veteran, as superintendent.

"We have the utmost confidence in him. He worked side by side with Chuck," said Buescher. "It was a natural progression. Chuck taught him everything he knows."

Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District Chief Frank Risko, who has known Pickering since Risko joined the fire department in 1988, said Pickering was "no nonsense."

"Just like all dedicated people, he was always responding to calls," said Risko. "And he made sure everything was done right."

Risko also said that being strictly devoted to business, Pickering was also "very friendly."

"He has a really good sense of humor. He was always good to work with," said Risko. "Plus he's bigger than all of us, so we had to like him."

Pickering, who lives in Sagamore Hills with his wife Caroline, moved to the area in 1971. He had previously lived in Perry Township in Stark County and had been a firefighter there for several years. He joined Northfield Center's then-volunteer department in 1972.

"We got a dollar a year. In fact, we had to pay to belong to the firefighters association," said Pickering. "I think it was six or seven dollars a month."

Four or five years after joining, he said, firefighters began being paid per call they responded to.

He was hired as road superintendent in 1982.

"I knew the vacancy was open because I was on the fire department and I already knew the trustees and went over and applied," he said.

His dual role created an odd situation, he said, since the road department's only other employee, Tom Catalano, was also the fire chief.

"During the day, he was my assistant and later, if we had a fire call or an ambulance call, I was his," said Pickering.

Pickering moved up the ranks in the fire department, eventually serving as chief for 18 months in the late 1990s. He retired in 2000.

Pickering said he particularly remembers the day a local garden center burned down in 1992 -- especially since he was one of a group of firefighters who had to take off their clothes and get washed off with "56 degree hydrant water" because of pesticides.

Pickering said he also remembers having to make calls for crashes at the "Northfield Airport," which was where the Charter Lakes Estates residential development is now. Pickering said there were three grass runways, one that went uphill, one downhill and a third that was short.

"It was a tricky airport to land in, unless you were used to it," he said.

Pickering said the thing that stands out for him during his tenure in the road department is its growth. When he started, the department had an old army truck that was converted into a dump truck that could be used for snow plowing, a second truck that was used for plowing and salting, and a backhoe.

The department now has five trucks of various sizes, all capable of plowing and salting, two excavators, a flatbed truck, a Jeep and an old tanker truck.

Department staff has also grown, with three full timers just prior to Pickering's retirement and seven part-time employees. Pickering's retirement, however, has reduced the department to two full time employees and Buescher said that due to budget concerns, the department will remain that way.

"We're going to rely more on part timers," he said.

Pickering said he plans to stay busy in retirement. working around his home and spending time with family, including a son and daughter and two granddaughters.

Pickering said he has other interests as well, including fishing, traveling and woodworking.

"I build furniture and stuff," he said. "I don't expect to get bored and if I do, I'll get a job."

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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