A humble and unassuming guy, Eddie Pietrolaj retired quietly last week after 30 years with the City of Clinton’s Public Works and Utilities Department.
His department threw him a party on his last day Thursday and Public Works director Jeff Vreugdenhil on Friday, the first day of Pietrolaj’s retirement from the city, sang the man’s praises in just what he meant to the city in his three decades.
“He’s been a stalwart among Public Works supervisors,” said Vreugdenhil. “He has tremendous work ethic and he would never ask anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do. He has been a super good guy to work with.”
The department held the small luncheon Thursday, serving hot dogs and hamburgers for Pietrolaj and the rest of the department. Vreugdenhil said he knew Pietrolaj, the city’s utility line maintenance system manager in charge of all things involving water and sewer operations, probably did not want a big send-off, but his fellow workers wanted to pay their respects to a career worth respecting.
“We had a luncheon here (at the Public Works building). He didn’t want to have a big to-do and he probably didn’t even want to do (luncheon), but it was his last day and he had to be here,” Vreugdenhil said.
“It was a little awkward (Thursday) to be honest with you,” said Pietrolaj. “I’ve spent as much time with them as I have anybody in the last 30 years, probably more time with them. It was tough yesterday. It was an awkward day.”
It might have been his last day as a City of Clinton employee, but definitely not his last day on the job. Pietrolaj was hard at it again first thing Friday morning, having gone into business for himself as an independent plumber.
“I got up this morning at 7 a.m. and went straight back to work plumbing,” Pietrolaj said Friday. “So I haven’t had a chance really to do anything yet. I’m too young to quit work and have a daughter who just started her first year in college, so I have to keep right on keeping on. It’s just like a stopped one job and went right on to another.”
As the supervisor of utility line maintenance, Pietrolaj headed a crew responsible for the supervision, maintenance, integrity and repair of approximately 90 miles of sanitary sewer mains,more than 80 miles of water transmission mains, along with in excess of 600 fire hydrants, 4,000 water connections and 3,400 sewer connections.
Pietrolaj coordinated everything from fixing water leaks, clearing blocked sewer lines, making new connections to the system, meter repair and reading, hydrant flushing and pressure testing, the supervision of roadway utility cuts and random tests of drinking water.
“He’s a valuable asset with tons of historical and institutional knowledge about our system,” Vreugdenhil said. “He knows everything about it without looking at maps. That’s going to be sorely missed.”
Pietrolaj said he appreciated the compliment, but conceded there are still tremendous assets within the utility maintenance division and across the Public Works Department.
“I try not to look at stuff like that. I appreciate that. It started out as a job and ended up as a career,” Pietrolaj said. “It kind of led me into what I’m doing now — I went from big plumbing to small plumbing, I guess you can say. And it took time to learn all that stuff. And there’s still a lot of knowledge that is there. I didn’t think anyone would ever replace my old boss man, but he was. Jeff is probably the best boss I’ve ever worked for ever.”
Now, as Pietrolaj starts a second career in independent plumbing, something he has been doing on the side for close to 20 years, the transition is smooth to say the least even though he won’t have his crew by his side.
“It’s just Eddie’s Plumbing,” said Pietrolaj. “I just go by my name. I’ve got a van but I don’t have nothing on the side.”
Not one to bring attention to himself, he said he probably won’t bother with a logo or branding the van.
“Everybody knows me,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. After all the time I spent with the city, everybody knows me.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.