She’s been the voice of City Hall

Judy Klumb, who for nearly 36 years has been the person on the other end of the line when Port residents call with questions or complaints, receives a retirement send-off
Ozaukee Press staff

Friday was Judy Klumb Appreciation Day in Port Washington, a time of celebration declared by Mayor Ted Neitzke to mark Klumb’s final day as a city employee.

It wasn’t hard to tell that the day was special.

There was a sign in front of the garage at City Hall that reserved a spot for “Retirement Parking Only”

“Thank you for your 35 years, 10 months and 25 days” the sign created by the city’s Street Department workers read.

And then there was the fire truck that pulled up to City Hall at the end of the day to give Klumb a ride home.

“I got whisked away by a fire truck,” she said Monday, still in awe of the moment. “It had its lights flashing, and they turned on the siren once or twice.

“I just wanted to go out silently, but no — this was absolutely different and I enjoyed it.”

And, she said, it was one item on her bucket list she got to cross off.

This week, the Street Department workers presented her with another sign, a street sign reading “Judy Klumb Way.”

Longevity wasn’t the only reason Klumb was feted.

While most residents may not know her face, they certainly know her voice if they’ve called City Hall.

Klumb was the person at the end of the phone line when residents called with questions — everything from “Why hasn’t my garbage been picked up yet?” to “Why are you planting a tree outside my house? I don’t want a tree.”

She has also gotten calls “at least a couple of times a month” for the Public Works Department in Port Washington, N.Y.

“I ask them, ‘Do you know you’re calling Wisconsin? I cannot help you,’” she said. “We answer all calls. I’ve gotten calls from people about Trak, Bolens, Simplicity, people wanting to know if they’re still open? Can they still get parts?”

But through it all, she has had one mission, Klumb said.

“My job is to help people, and that’s what I want to do,” she said of her job.

Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said Klumb’s dedication to her job is notable.

“She was incredibly reliable, extremely knowledgeable and always helpful,” he said.

“Judy took a ton of pride in her work. She knows not only every street in the city, it felt like she knew every resident and every house.”

And, he said, she knows every city employee by name, “whether they’re a third-shift police officer or a seasonal lifeguard.”
Klumb’s job isn’t easy, he added, especially since people randomly call or stop in throughout the day.

“That’s a lot of interruptions, and she always attended to each person patiently,” he said. “And in nearly every case, she was able to give the person the information they needed.

“Some people aren’t happy when they call, and you just have to separate the frustration and the person. She was able to do that and respond to the resident no matter how frustrated they were, and she ended the conversation with a more satisfied customer.”

Neitzke, in a proclamation honoring Klumb, said she “set the standard for excellence in multitasking, simultaneously providing information to residents on an unlimited variety of subjects while assisting co-workers with insurance claims, calling Diggers Hotline, executing mail mergers, posting updates on the city’s Facebook page, helping contractors take out permits, inform the city’s trash and recycling collector of a missed home and making sure the city’s cable channel was running properly.”

Klumb, 66, was one of the city’s longest tenured employees, if not the longest tenured worker.

She didn’t start her career with the city, though. She had been working at Milwaukee Machine Products in Mequon for 11 years when her parents called to tell her there was a city job open that she should apply for.

They even picked up the application for her, and after she filled it out they dropped it off at City Hall, she said.

Former City Administrator Mark Grams interviewed her, she said, noting the session began with their talking about their children, since they were both living in the Birchwood Hills condominiums at the time.

A few days later, Grams called to ask if she wanted the job.

“I was Mark’s first hire,” Klumb said.

She started as a payroll specialist on Feb. 12, 1987, and for decades took care of her fellow employees, making sure they got the benefits they deserved.

“One employee had a child with cancer. I told him, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll make sure everything gets taken care of,’” Klumb said, tearing up.

Through the years, Klumb has seen changes big and small.

“Back then, there weren’t computers. It was all electric typewriters,” she said. “We had to do payroll four times because there were four funds.”

She has worked with at least nine mayors and too many aldermen to count, as well as three public works directors, four city planners, three harbormasters, two fire chiefs and three police chiefs.

“I’ve gone through a lot of department heads,” Klumb said.

It was when Port hired Mary Kay Buratto as the city planner that  Klumb became her administrative assistant, adding that to her list of duties.

As social media became popular, Klumb started the city’s Facebook page.

“The more information you get out to people, the more they’ll know,” she said.

She’s handled a wide variety of duties.

“I consider myself a Jill of all trades,” Klumb said. I think one of the only things I haven’t done is make out water bills.”

She has also lived through a variety of crises in the city. There was the time in 2017 a woman struck a fire hydrant, damaging both it and the lateral and causing 400,000 gallons of water to gush out, dropping the water pressure so much that the city had to issue a boil advisory.

And there was the flood of 1996 when more than 11 inches of rain fell on saturated soil.

“The flood was the scariest,” Klumb said. “People were calling for sandbags. Driving down St. Mary’s Hill and seeing the manholes floating. Water was pouring over the Wisconsin Street bridge and we thought it might be taken out.”

Mudslides at the lakefront and street projects galore, including the reconstruction of the city’s main roads — Franklin Street, Wisconsin Street and Spring Street — have all happened on her watch.

And then there was what Neitzke termed “trash can gate,” when Waste Management began not picking up garbage and recycling in large areas of the city.

Klumb was on the front lines as irate residents called, and she handled the situation with aplomb, he said, especially as the city transitioned to a new contractor.

The variety is part of what Klumb said she liked best about her job — that and the people she worked with.

“I call them my boys,” Klumb said of the public works employees. “I love my boys, I really do. I loved my bosses.”

But, she said, it’s time to leave the world of work.

“I’ve got a new chapter to start,” she said. “I’m excited for the new things to come, but I’m sad to be leaving my boys and I’m a little scared. I’ve always worked.”

She’s ready to tackle genealogy projects, travel, clean the basement of her house and spend time with her six grandchildren.

And when Monroe Street outside her house is reconstructed this summer, she said, “I might be sitting outside watching the guys.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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