Whether they know it or not, Perham’s residents have relied on Public Works Manager Merle Meece for the last 22 years.
Meece, 62, is preparing to retire at the end of the month, after a 39-year career spent in public works.
The soft-spoken Meece has purposely kept a low profile.
“A lot of people don’t know who I am, so that makes it easier for everyone,” Meece said.
Staying out of the spotlight keeps him from being asked for certain favors, or hearing too many complaints about the city’s snow removal process.
Meece manages a crew of seven employees, whose responsibilities range from the airport, to city parks, cemeteries, water and natural gas, but none is more of a hot button issue than plowing snow.
“Snow removal is an interesting challenge,” Meece said. “You will never make everyone happy.”
While appealing, a bare pavement policy would be too costly and time consuming, so Meece has his crew stick to the same routes each go-around. The plows always start in the business district, before focusing on routes to school, then fanning out into residential areas.
“Businesses run the city,” he said in explaining the triage approach to plowing.
A native of Hutchinson, Meece started his career working for the City of Hutchinson, before heading up the public works department in Brownton in McLeod County.
Meece had only been to Perham once before taking the job, but says he was drawn to the area because of the school district.
The variety of challenges that spring up each day brings Meece the most satisfaction.
“Perham is progressive, and that means there’s lots of changes,” he said. “I’m involved with almost every project.”
Meece said he’s had a great working relationship with the city, but knew the time was right to retire now.
“They need new blood to lead from here,” he said.
Jeremie Schossow, has already been tapped as Meece’s replacement, and has years of experience working in the Perham Public Works Department.
Perham City Manager Jonathan Smith said Meece’s vast knowledge and experience required in such a complex position will be missed.
Meece’s leadership skills have also stood out to Smith.
“He’s able to hone in on his staff’s talents, and put strong people in certain areas,” Smith said. “That allows them to take that area of the department and make it theirs.”
Smith commended Meece for the noticeable improvements Meece has made to Perham’s parks, especially a concentration on making them more aesthetically pleasing, while also functional.
Looking ahead, Meece said he’s eager to travel more often alongside his wife, Joan.
“We’ll go south for a week or two, but nothing crazy,” he said. “I still want to be close to the kids.”
Meece is already eagerly awaiting the first real winter snowstorm.
“I’m just going to sit back and watch it fall,” he said. “I’ll get to it when I want to.”