Harvey County Solid Waste Superintendent Rollin Schmidt is the epitome of a public servant — currently being honored as part of National Public Service Recognition week, May 5-11. While his work may be unheralded and unnoticed at times, the community impact is nonetheless realized. For Schmidt, that was enough to keep him going after former Noxious Weed Director Roy Patton got his foot in the door three decades ago.
"Back when he hired me, I was a farm kid; I'd run a dairy farm so I had the work ethic and all that, but he took a shot," Schmidt said. "I soon learned that there was more to this than just spraying ditches and stuff. The public saw what I did and there were always those who appreciated the work we did to help, and I guess that kind of got in my blood then. It was my way of giving service."
Since getting his start in the Harvey County Noxious Weed Department, Schmidt has spent 35 years in public service with the Noxious Weed and Solid Waste departments of both Harvey and Marion counties. That service will soon be coming to an end as Schmidt has announced his retirement as of July 1.
Most recently, Schmidt has served Harvey County as Solid Waste superintendent for the past four years, overseeing trash collection, recycling composting and major projects handled by the department, such as the landfill expansion currently being discussed.
Like with any job, there are the standard complaints, but those who truly see the work of the Solid Waste Department and how Schmidt and his employees help county residents is something that has kept him dedicated to work in the public sector — as opposed to remaining a "farm boy."
"There were jobs that paid better, but there was something about doing the public service that suited me, so I stayed with it," Schmidt said. "Going to work every day wasn't tough. There were always these challenges — I've always liked a challenge — and there was always those things I wanted to get accomplished, get it done. It just kept going from there. When you enjoy what you do, it helps tremendously."
As retirement approaches, Schmidt said he will miss the work he has done with Solid Waste and Noxious Weeds, but upon coming back to Harvey County, he admitted, he knew the clock was ticking.
Stepping away, he looks forward to time to relax, time with his wife and more time to pursue his passion for music. He performs regularly with three bands.
"When I came here, I thought, 'I'll do five years at least.' I had people tell me, 'you'll know when it's time,' and I just kind of knew now's the time," Schmidt said. "Now I don't have to worry when I have a gig in the middle of the week how tired I'll be the next day."
Over the years, Schmidt said he was particularly proud of the programs he has helped start up — namely in Marion County (like recycling and household hazardous wastes). He has also been proud of the collaborative efforts in Harvey County with the commission/administration to make necessary equipment and facility upgrades within the Solid Waste department. Constantly moving up in each department is also something Schmidt said he was proud of, though he is ready to let someone else take the wheel.
Perhaps fittingly, in the midst of this week of public service recognition, Schmidt admitted that what he will remember most about his work is the community members he has had an impact on and helped in whatever way was needed.
"That's the part I always enjoy. Even if they don't say anything, you can tell you've helped them if you're aware of it and looking for it. I've always liked that. I don't know if that's been my upbringing or whatever, but that always has felt good to me because I helped a person, however small that is," Schmidt said. "If they just call on the phone and want to know what to do with their asbestos, if I can help them, that's always felt good to me. That's probably what's kept me at this all the time."