Tiffin City Administrator Wayne Stephens still loves helping the residents of the community he has spent years working for. On Monday, city officials helped Stephens celebrate his 40-year anniversary as a city employee.
"I love my job. The thing I like the most is being able to help people, and the thing I find most frustrating is not being able to help people," Stephens said.
Stephens has no plans to retire soon.
Five decades have passed while Stephens has watched the city and its residents.
In that time he said the soul of the city and its residents have not changed.
Stephens started working for Tiffin's Public Works department to use the money to put himself through school at what then was Heidelberg College.
He also spent a summer working in the Parks and Recreation department.
Stephens has had the opportunity to save lives while working for the city as an emergency medical technician and as a police officer. He worked as an EMT from 1969 to 1981 and as a police officer until 1996.
At the encouragement of his older brother, who was a police officer, Stephens decided to go into law enforcement. Stephens, before the age of 21, passed the civil service exam and was appointed as a police officer March 8, 1969.
"I have a lot of good memories, and a lot of things I wish I could forget but can't," Stephens said.
Nov. 30, 1970, is one date and one memory he cannot forget.
It was the day five teenagers were killed in a car/train accident.
As the investigating officer, it fell to Stephens to tell the parents their children had died.
"There isn't anything you can say to make that better. I've never forgotten that, although I would like to. You can't forget that helpless feeling you have," Stephens said.
Stephens rose through the ranks, and in 1987 became Tiffin's police chief. He held that post for nine years.
Community involvement and a strong work ethic were parts of the Stephens family.
His mother volunteered many different places and his father ran for city council but was defeated.
Stephens said all his brothers and sisters had jobs. Even before working for the city, Stephens helped clean the shop of a local tailor.
It was pride in performing his work that led to Stephens making a hard decision in January 1996.
Stephens said he has always had fresh ideas to offer, but when the city started to hire officers who were young enough to be his children, he sensed a difference in philosophy with the younger officers, he said.
He left law enforcement to become the city administrator.
"I thought I would be a good fit," Stephens said.
Mayors memories of a city administrator
Stephens was not former Mayor Bernard Hohman's first choice.
It was on the day the initial candidate was to be introduced to members of city council that a routine background check came in. It revealed the candidate had falsified some of the past experiences and education listed on his resume.
The next day Stephens was offered the position.
Hohman said it worked out very well.
"I found him to be very professional. It was an advantage to have come from the city family, the time to learn the job wasn't much at all," Hohman said.
He said Stephens thinks about things before reacting and is very good at responding to people who are upset.
Mayor Jim Boroff has worked with Stephens for nine years since Boroff was elected to a position on city council. When Boroff was elected as mayor he asked Stephens to stay on as city administrator.
"When I asked him to be my city administrator, I told him we'd review it in 18 months. A couple months ago I sat down with him and told him I thought things were going well. I asked him if he would keep me on as mayor," Boroff joked.
Boroff said Stephens is effective. He said without Stephens and his knowledge and institutional memory, his first year would have been harder.
"He has a real love for the city," Boroff said.
A city administrator's take
Stephen's still has a pride in performing his job well.
"One of the things that makes me feel the best about the job I have is that I've hired some really good people to work for the city. I think there's been a couple times I've made mistakes, but the vast majority has been wonderful," Stephens said.
He said he knows his office is not always popular with citizens because notices of violations of various city codes comes from there.
"It's one of the things I have to do, one of my responsibilities, because I have to think of what's good for our community. We always try to weigh public safety and how we would feel if we lived next door to someone who was not taking care of their property," Stephens said.
He said the city has good public services from all departments, from the police department and fire department, to the public works department.