MERIDEN — Through the decades, city managers and political figures have come and gone in the city, and Carol Neckermann has been there to see it all.
“All the guys, they always had the city’s interest at heart,” Neckermann said about the nine city managers she worked under as administrative assistant. “Even though some of them might have gone about it the wrong way, in their heart, it was the right way.”
Neckermann, a city employee for 47 years, is one of 58 longtime employees across several departments who will retire over the next six months as part of an incentive program offered by the city to save money long-term.
“There’s no question about it, they’re losing a lot of experienced people,” said Custodial Superintendent Pietro Galluzzo, who is also retiring this year after 47 years.
Neckermann, 65, and Galluzzo, 64, are the two longest-serving employees out of the 58, who on average have served a little over 26 years. Neckermann was hired in November 1971 as a clerk in the personnel department just a few weeks before Galluzzo was hired as a maintenance worker at the police station after coming to America from Italy at 14. Neckermann remembers processing Galluzzo’s pre-employment paperwork when he was hired in 1971 and the two have been friends ever since.
“We used to talk about what restaurants we’d go to when we were younger, and now we talk about our aches,” Neckermann said laughing.
The 58 retirees include 17 who have worked in the city for 30 years or longer.
City Manager Tim Coon said while the retirees will be missed, they only represent 10 percent of the city’s workforce.
“They have a great deal of experience, history and great service to the city, and that experience will be missed, but there’s 90 percent of the experience and knowledge that is left behind,” Coon said.
The city has staggered the retirement dates to help departments find and train replacements. The departments with the most retirees are the Health Department with seven, the Public Library and Water Division with six each, and the Planning/Building and Legal departments with four each.
“I’m sure they’ll survive, and they’ll find a way,” said Galluzzo, who will leave at the end of June.
“And if they don’t, then they’ll learn the hard way,” said Neckermann, who retires Feb. 1. “No one really taught us what we learned throughout – what works best when answering the phone or how to resolve the matter. We learned on the job.”
Neckermann and Galluzzo are seen by many as a wealth of knowledge and source of continuity.
“There isn’t a day that goes by when I don't say, ‘Hey Carol, what's the story behind this?’ And she generally has it, and if she doesn't, she tells me who to talk to,” said Coon, who started as city manager in September.
Like many public servants, Neckermann and Galluzzo have held jobs that required them to go above and beyond.
Since 1980, Galluzzo has been responsible for overseeing maintenance of city buildings, 18 in total, and has often gotten calls in the middle of the night when emergencies arise, including a call he received while vacationing in Italy last summer when a copy machine caught fire at the police station.
During the catastrophic nor’easter snowstorm of 1978, Neckermann recalled then-mayor Walter Evilia asked her to come to work with over two feet of snow on the ground.
“I look out my window and I say to my mother, ‘I don’t have to go to work.’ Twenty minutes later the phone rings and my mother said, ‘Walter wants to know if he sends a plow will you come in,” Neckermann said. “...So Walter sent (a plow)...and they cleaned the driveway and gave me a ride to work.”
As public servants, Neckermann and Galluzzo recalled city employees have often had to work outside of their job descriptions for the betterment of the city.
“The city has a good team here. All the employees are really wonderful. They all work together, it doesn’t matter what office you’re in, if somebody needs a hand, they go into that office and work. Nobody here says, ‘This is not my job.’ That doesn’t exist,” Galluzzo said.
Both Neckermann and Galluzzo said they look forward to being under less stress and spending time with family in retirement.
“The one thing I won’t miss is the emergency calls at night,” Galluzzo said. “...Last year, I went on vacation with my wife and I only got half a dozen calls and two were at one o’ clock in the morning. My wife will be happy she won’t get woken up anymore.”
Neckermann said her favorite part about her job over the years has been “getting a simple ‘thank you’ on the phone.”
“I’ll probably miss that, but I won’t miss listening to the phone ring,” Neckermann said.
“People ask me, ‘What are you going to do?’’ Neckermann said. “And I say, ‘When it snows, I”m going to pull up the shade and I’m going to see there’s snow and I’m going to say, ‘I don’t have to go to work.”