Winch Served Street Division for more than Three Decades
Mike Winch began his career at the City of Marshfield Street Division on May 15, 1980 with the goal of one day being Street Superintendent. This week, he retires from that position after serving in that role for 3.5 years.
A lifelong Marshfield resident who lives just four blocks from where he grew up, Winch attended Lincoln Elementary School, graduated from Marshfield High School, and pursued a degree in Communications from UW-Stevens Point before beginning his professional career at Trierweiler Construction. After 6.5 years with the company, he left to work for the City as a laborer.
“My second daughter was going to be born. Like a lot of the guys, I didn’t want to be on the road when starting a family. It was a good time to get off the road,” he said.
Starting by shoveling sidewalks and pouring concrete, over the course of his career Winch worked his way to the top gig.
“When I was hired, the intent was to eventually to be a supervisor,” he said. “When I came here, one of my goals was to be street superintendent. When Brian (Panzer, former superintendent until 2014) took early retirement, it gave me a chance.”
As Superintendent, Winch oversaw 31 full-time employees and 12 seasonal employees.
“This job it was nothing like I thought it was going to be when I got it,” he said. “I went from a whole career of working 90% out in field and 10% in the office, to that being completely reversed.”
Though he does miss the construction side of the job – getting dirty and bonding with the crew – he has enjoyed being able to make a positive impact on his hometown.
“Being a lifelong resident of Marshfield, I’ve enjoyed having a chance to make Marshfield a better place to live, through roads, snow plowing, tree-planting,” said Winch. “I really enjoy Marshfield. I still go to all the high school football games yet. I like the community size.”
Winch said he will miss the camaraderie of his team and the sense of accomplishment.
“Believe it or not, since 1980 there have been a lot of roads that have been fixed,” he said. “I had an unrealistic goal, which was to get all of them fixed. Obviously that’s not a realistic goal, but we have done a lot of good.”
During his career, Winch has overseen many changes and advancements, including more efficient technology, improved safety, and cost-saving and environmentally-friendly measures such as anti-icing and bare-root tree gravel beds.
“Everybody knows that I don’t like change, but I always kept an open mind on different ideas, whether it’s guys going to seminars or new methods for snow removal like different types of chemicals that you can use, what’s better for the environment, having the flexibility to try different things and experiment with ways of benefiting the City and saving money,” he said. “When I first got here, didn’t have a safety program or committee.”
The City is currently in the interview process for a new street superintendent, and for whomever fills that role, Winch encourages them to utilize their resources.
“What I’d like to pass on to whoever takes this chair is: Use all your resources,” he said. “Don’t think you can take on the whole City by yourself. There are plenty of departments and the more you cooperate with them the better results you’re going to get for the overall city. With your crew, keep internal communication with them and show your appreciation for them and better utilize the departments that are there to help you.”
Winch hopes that the department, which is currently developing an improved pay plan, continues to put employees first.
“The most valuable assets to any place is their employees,” said Winch. “In order to keep qualified people here, they are going to have to make some adjustments. I value the people that work here and I think in order to retain them, something is going to have to be done.”
“After working with Mike for 30 years, I am definitely going to miss his quick wit and ability to look at problems from a different perspective,” said Assistant Street Superintendent Kurt Bornbach. “His ability to deal with difficult situations and people is definitely going to be missed. The knowledge of the Marshfield community and also its infrastructure will be a huge loss for our department also. As my supervisor, I can say I have had none better.”
Though Winch will miss his colleagues, he is looking forward to spending time fishing, attending baseball games, and playing with his grandkids.
When more than 7 inches of snow fell on Marshfield last week during the first big snowstorm of the year, ironically Winch was at home because of a personal day.
“I kept looking out the window waiting for the snowplow,” he said. “I guess that’s what retirement is going to be like!”