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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • The 39-year temporary job

  • While one would say Zielke was born to douse into this field, for Zielke, it was a temporary job that turned out to be not-so temporary...
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  • The seasoned utility specialist who jokes he's too old to be called Kenny is retiring from the City of Dodge City after 39 1/2 years. Kenneth "Kenny" Zielke began his admirable and ever-growing career on May 31, 1974, as a "worker" — as then official job titles weren't so important — and continued to work his way up the ladder once the "itch" bit him. Over the years, Zielke has worn a number of different hats including, foreman over production, manager of water wells, and superintendent. While one would say Zielke was born to douse into this field, for Zielke, it was a temporary job that turned out to be not-so temporary... "I went to school to be a computer programmer," Zielke said. "But in the mid-70's trying to find a programming job was almost non-existent unless you went to work for the government or military." Zielke was not interested in either so his father, who was superintendent of utilities at the time brought him aboard until he was able to find "something else" but after a few years, he realized he might have landed exactly where he wanted to be. "I got to liking the job and I especially liked being trained by my father," he said. Zielke says he liked gaining knowledge about water and the waste system and was intrigued on how they inner related to each other and the environment and everything else. And for a pair of eyes that has seen his line of work evolve over almost 40 years, Zielke says what he thinks has changed the most are the rules and regulations handed down by the state and Environmental Protection Agency and the way technology has impacted his field of work. Zielke recalls wells being controlled manually. At the time when Dodge City housed only one water tower, located by the Medical Center, Zielke would be among the individuals who would watch the elevation in the tower and pressure reading. "We had one central bank of nobs and dials," he said. "It was on dedicated phone lines that went to each well. We'd watch the elevation in that tower and the pressure reading and decided when to turn on a well and how many gallons to release to that well, depending on demand. Now it's all computerized. "We set the parameters and it takes care of the rest." Zielke's last day at work was Friday, Jan. 17 and says so far he's just had fun "kicking back and taking it easy" — something he plans to do for a while until he decides to possibly head to Alaska. "I've enjoyed working with Kenny and gaining knowledge he has," Director of Engineering Services Ray Slattery said. "He's helped me out numerous times with projects and we'll probably still call on him from time to time when the need arises to help out the city." And in the times where there were talks of a casino and other projects, Slattery said Zielke was instrumental in making sure everything met city codes and specifications and oversaw a development of seven wells South of town and four new wells in town. “Throughout Kenny’s employment with the City of Dodge City, he has acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise regarding municipal water and waste water collection systems.  These systems are extremely complicated systems when realizing the number of water wells, miles of infrastructure lines and the extreme amount of monitoring and compliance issues required for water quality and other environmental safety concerns,” stated City Manager Cherise Tieben.  “We appreciate the commitment Kenny has given throughout his career to help the City maintain and expand our infrastructure needs and always keeping the safety surrounding these systems for our community as the focus.”
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