Morning News-Lisa Lete
Colleagues from the Bingham County Road and Bridge Dept. share some stories and laughs Thursday afternoon as they celebrate the retirement of long-time employee Ken Saunders. (l to r) Richard Monson, Saunders and Ken Taylor.
He may have been fashionably late for his own retirement party, but Ken Saunders was never late for work (in over 30 for years) for a job that he loved - working for the Bingham County Road and Bridge Department.
Saunders said he made the decision to retire at this time "to give someone else the opportunity to have what he had."
A native of Moreland, Saunders studied to be a diesel mechanic and started with the county as a truck driver in 1981. After 6 years he was promoted to a mechanic; he then worked his way up to 'senior equipment operator' which was the mainstay of his job working for the county.
"There was nothing I didn't like about this job...and I did it all," a jovial Saunders stated. "I ran the grader, the loader, the back-hoe, the dozer...I put in culverts in rain, snow and floods."
Saunders helped maintain over 1,250 square miles of road (both gravel and oiled) in Bingham County.
Saunders says he has seen plenty of change (mostly good) during his years of working for the county.
"When I first started, we couldn't go a full day without a flat tire or a breakdown," he recalled. "The equipment has changed drastically. Now we may have two flats a year and maybe one breakdown a year."
A time that particularly stands out in Saunders' mind is the spring of 1997...the year of 'the floods.'
"One thing that I truly admire about the people of this county is that when something happens 'everyone' shows up to help," he noted. "I worked side-by-side with people from all walks of life during these floods."
While friends and co-workers joked and shared stories at a retirement party held for Saunders Thursday afternoon, it was clear that Saunders is highly respected and well-liked by his colleagues.
"He is a valued employee," Richard Monson-assistant public works director stated. "His experience is going to be difficult to replace."
"He always has a smile on his face and sees the good in everyone and everything," Karen Shafer-purchasing agent added. "I'm really going to miss him."
Saunders said he has experienced a roller-coaster of emotions as it came closer to his final day at work.
"It's strange to think that tomorrow I have nothing I need to do...and no place I need to be," he mused.
With a love of fishing, camping and traveling, Saunders won't stay idle for long. He and his wife Karol, who is also retired, have a son (Garth) and 7 grandchildren in Wisconsin that they look forward to visiting.
In closing Saunders said, "I would like to thank Bingham County for this job and the opportunity to have worked here for 31 years. I have loved every minute of it."