A lot can change in 25 years. Whether the change is to you, climbing the ladder from volunteer firefighter to fire chief, or around you, watching the city grow and change as your position remains the same. Ken Neuhard and Brian Jones have held front row seats to many changes in Maitland since 1987.
Neuhard has held six different positions within the Maitland Fire Department, including his current post as fire chief. And as assistant city manager, Jones has watched four city managers and countless Council members and city employees come and go. At the end of this week, on Oct. 5, they’ll watch one final change in the city, as boxes and photographs are taken down from their offices and new ones are moved in.
The pair is retiring this week, 25 years after both being hired by the city in 1987.
“Both of them have been very, very excellent employees and [I] enjoyed my time working with them tremendously,” City Manager Jim Williams said. “They’ve brought a lot of history and experience to draw upon within the city. … I wish them well.”
Volunteer to fire chief
Memories and remnants of changes come and passed surround Ken Neuhard in his third-floor office in the new Maitland fire station.
There’s the thick binder in his bookshelf that in 2009 declared the Maitland Fire Department as internationally accredited for the first time in its history.
Behind his desk there’s a prominently framed caricature depicting him with a comically oversized head jokingly debating whether or not to put a fire out at an IRS building, gifted to him to take the edge off after a particularly stressful budget season.
Out his window, there’s the site where years ago a train hit a car at the Packwood Avenue intersection, just feet from where the old fire station stood and the new one stands today.
Folded and encased on a shelf sits the flag from that old station, where the Maitland Fire Department was stationed from 1973 until 2010, when under Neuhard’s oversight it was demolished and rebuilt into the state-of-the-art station they operate out of today. After the old flag was taken down and retired on Nov. 20, 2010, it was gifted to Neuhard as a symbol of where they’d come from, and where they were going.
Ten months after the new station was unveiled, Neuhard announced that he was going home to his family. He started as a 30-year-old volunteer firefighter and worked his way up, being named fire chief in 2004. Neuhard says he’s retiring to move to Dallas to spend some time with his family “and spoil some grandkids.”
“I went all the way from the very, very bottom to the very top… and I’ve been very grateful. Not many people get the opportunity to do that within a city,” he said.
Replacing him is Assistant Chief of Operations Kim Neisler, who will take the reins as the city’s first female fire chief.
“It’s a great team here, and I’ll really miss working with them on a daily basis,” Neuhard said. “Like everyone says, it’s the people you miss.”
But it’s the fire service he’ll miss as well, saying, “There’s just something about it that gets in your blood.”
And though, he says, that will never leave him, he’ll continue to pack up his pictures and memories, leaving the building, its views and the groomed, capable hands of his coworkers behind.
Assistant city manager moves on
Brian Jones never got too comfortable in his new office in Maitland’s new city hall, knowing he’d be leaving just months after its opening. All he brought with him, in addition to his bold and blatantly labeled collection of city business binders, is an oversized painting of a lazy looking leopard lounging in a tree, which hangs on his wall.
Dated 1983, he said the painting, which won the city’s Art Festival twenty-some years ago, has hung in his office since the first day he started.
“I don’t get to take him with me, he’s the city’s… but I’ve always just liked his attitude,” Jones says with a shrug and a laugh.
The painting is one of the few things that haven’t changed around him as he’s served as Maitland’s assistant city manager since April of 1987. From the old city hall to the new, and from typewriters and calculators to computers, Jones said he’s enjoyed being part of Maitland’s history as it’s evolved during his tenure.
“There’s very few things that have happened that I wasn’t at least a small part of… and a lot of the stuff I was proud to be part of,” he said.
Jones won’t take sole credit for anything accomplished during his time with the city, instead crediting all business, from annexations to downtown development plans, as a team effort.
Jones says that though his title has remained the same, his position has widened and narrowed over the years. At different points, he said, in addition to being assistant city manager, he’s covered as public works director, finance director and head of parks and recreation. The juggling act, he said, led fellow staff members to gift him a soccer ball, now resting deflated in his closet, as a nod to his pliability with position shifts.
One of those staff members, current Management Services Director Sharon Anselmo, will take over his job as he finishes packing up and detangling his more than a decade worth of work to help with the transition.
“As a city there’s a lot of cycles you go through,” he said. “And now it’s just my turn to cycle through.”