Starke Commissioners Name New Highway Superintendent

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

A new highway superintendent will be taking the reins in Starke County, having been appointed by the Starke County Commissioners this week. Stephen “Rik” Ritzler boasts an extensive history of experience and success with projects throughout Indiana, and said he will focus on bringing funds to the county and improving the highway department by providing the employees with the resources they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Ritzler spent five years as project manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation LaPorte District, having worked on over 300 projects – including the Yellow River bridge project in Knox. He also spent time on the bridge assessment management team for the state of Indiana, assessing bridges and prioritizing funding for those projects. He said he feels his asset management experience will go a long way in benefiting Starke County.

“The big thing is working for INDOT. I have a lot of experience with asset management and capital program management and asset assessment and funding, and I think that’s something that Starke County hasn’t had for a while, and I think that I could bring that and bring more funds to the county and do some better assessment on the roads – preventative maintenance, you do something now, you crack-seal the road now instead of repairing it four years from now, it lasts seven years, you save a lot of money that way, and I think there’s an opportunity here to save a lot of money,” Ritzler explained.

Ritzler also explained that he plans to provide the highway department with the resources it needs to improve and maintain the county’s roads, stating that by keeping the department’s equipment maintained, the employees will be able to focus on their work, rather than being preoccupied with other matters that they should not have to worry about such as funding issues or other matters.

“The big thing I want to do is provide the county employees with the opportunity to do their job the best way. I think that if you do that, the roads will be in much better shape – provide them with the equipment, support, and materials that they need to do their job. They don’t need to worry about things; they don’t have to worry about their truck not working; they don’t have to worry about having enough salt. My job is to make sure they have all those things. My job is also to make sure they don’t have to worry about any outside things like people complaining about potholes or things like that; that’s my job to take care of that. I’ll take care of that and let the guys do their job, but providing them the opportunity to do their job, I think the roads will improve greatly. Combine that with finding new ways of getting funding, even in this tough economic time, I think the roads can get a lot better,” said Ritzler.

Ritzler started the position Monday and began the process of acclimating himself to the county employees, department heads, the highway department crew, and even some residents whom he has already spoken to.

“Everybody is very friendly, very accommodating, and I had a chance to meet all the guys in the garage and they were all great, so I’m really looking forward to starting,” said Ritzler.

In February, the Starke County Commissioners removed former Highway Superintendent Steve Siddall from his position and appointed Scott Dedloff as interim superintendent. Dedloff has been a foreman for the county for some time, and filled in Siddall’s stead while Bill Crase held the responsibilities of interim foreman. Now, however, Ritzler will head up the department in the wake of Siddall, who served the county for roughly four years before being removed from his position by the commissioners. The commissioners would only comment on the matter by saying, “it was time for a change,” for the county.