To hear Bruce Johnson tell it, his almost three decades as manager of the Wauwatosa School District's building and grounds almost didn't happen - by his choice.
"I was hired in 1985 by the new manager to be his assistant," Johnson said. "He didn't like it here and he left. I was offered the job and said I didn't want anything to do with it."
Advised by then Superintendent Maury Sullivan to think it over for a couple weeks and further urged by his father, Johnson finally gave in.
"I wound up staying 27-plus years," Johnson said. "It was a good run."
That run officially ended June 30 with Johnson's retirement.
Johnson looks at his career in the district as a team effort, crediting Gerry Krueger, coordinator of custodial services, for his support. Krueger also retires June 30 after more than 20 years.
"People need to understand that I did not run the department by myself," Johnson said. "Gerry was very much a co-manager. It takes an entire staff."
Between buildings and grounds, custodial and others, Johnson said the entire staff totals about 70.
It's easy to pick out the challenges, low points and high points from his career, he said.
"The challenge is to keep up with the needs of 14 buildings and those who need to use them," Johnson said. "We have one building that dates back to 1919, which is the north unit of Lincoln, and a lot of others built in the 1920s. Those buildings were built with a lot of construc tion talent but (we need to) make sure they are ready for current needs."
Electrical upgrades have been a priority, especially to support ever-changing technology.
Johnson said he never supervised construction of an entire school, but counts additions to McKinley, Roosevelt and Washington elementary schools as among the largest projects he was part of.
Johnson's low point quickly comes to mind.
"The low point is pretty easy to pick out," he said. "It was Dec. 1, 1993, when Dale Breitlow was shot. We were friends, and I talked and visited with him just three hours prior. I still remember that vividly almost 20 years later."
Breitlow, an associate principal at West, was shot and killed in a school hallway by a former student.
Johnson's career highlights are many.
"Part of it is the day-to-day enthusiasm where people want to get involved with public schools," Johnson said. "I know that particularly in recent years the public sector has taken a few more licks than they used to, but we have so many hardworking and dedicated people who want to be involved."
The other highlight is knowing that his work supports a good cause.
"It's appreciated by people," Johnson said. "When you have facilities in order to support all the activities and programs, there is a tremendous amount of population that uses the school system. The staff recognizes and they understand their role. There is a meaning and a purpose even though at the same time it is a secondary role."
Retirement will have its rewards.
"I am looking forward to not having to drive my car," said Johnson, who is an avid bicyclist. He looks forward to a bike trip from Milwaukee to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit his dad on his 91st birthday.
He also is looking forward to traveling with Chris, his wife.
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Hundreds of Tosa residents experienced short power outage Aug. 27
- Wauwatosa Village valet service tentatively halted on Sundays
- Ask Now: Can parts of Milwaukee get annexed back into Wauwatosa?
- Wauwatosa School District filled a 'typical' 60 jobs this summer (1)
- Monarch advocates celebrate 10th year of releasing butterflies at County Grounds in Wauwatosa
- Disability advocates concerned about lack of housing in Wauwatosa
- Gay Ex-Wauwatosa police officer says she endured years of harassment, gets $77k settlement
- Wauwatosa's Diva Day brings shopping deals and business boosts
- Wauwatosa things to do: August 27
- Suspected pipe bomb draws neighborhood attention in Wauwatosa