Stuparits — who has served in his current position for the last two years after heading up the local wastewater treatment plant — will retire in July.
“We're sad about that,” said Spring Lake Township Manager Gordon Gallagher. “We're developing a timeline for finding a replacement. We hope to have a replacement in early July. That's going to be really tough shoes to fill. John is really remarkable.”
Gallagher credits Stuparits with forging a close working relationship between the two municipalities’ DPW staff. The village and township share personnel and equipment.
“He's really worked hard to look at how the village and township can work closer together on public works issues,” Gallagher said. “That really is a tough area. For example the village does snow plowing and the township does not (Ottawa County does). We have 4,000 water and sewer customers and the village has 1,500. How do we marshal resources in a way that's mutually beneficial? John really is a remarkable person.”
Stuparits has agreed to stay on and help train his replacement before he retires.
“We're going to do a pretty statewide search and hope to find the person who will be the right fit for leading the departments into the future,” Gallagher said. “The public works director for our two communities is really a well-established and respected position. I think we'll get quite a few applicants.”
Gallagher said Stuparits let him know of his intentions about a month and a half ago. It was no surprise, according to Gallagher, because when Stuparits took the job in January 2016, he indicated he would likely stick around two years and then retire.
Stuparits oversees about 10 employees.
“I think that John made some cultural changes at both of our public works departments, to encourage working closely together,” Gallagher said. “He conducted shared staff meetings and safety meetings. He's also been able to really work on the key parts of infrastructure in the village that needed work, and also some of the equipment sharing and getting everyone to recognize there are some benefits to that.”
Village Manager Chris Burns said Stuparits' retirement will leave a large void for both communities.
“If you've spent more than five minutes with John, you know how passionate and enthusiastic he is about serving our residents,” Burns said. “It was a complete coup when Spring Lake Township hired John after he retired from the wastewater treatment plant. He is so knowledgeable about infrastructure and is truly a people person. He will leave some big shoes to fill.”
Burns said sharing a DPW director with the township has worked well.
“It has been amazing in my opinion,” she said. “It has opened up a whole new line of communication between Spring Lake Township and Spring Lake Village. Our DPW staff now work hand-in-hand when they need to.”
Stuparits, who plans to travel, spend more time with family and check items off his bucket list during retirement, said he will miss village and township board members, managers, support staff and his DPW crew members.
“I am so proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with every one of them,” he said. “I have been exceptionally fortunate to work with these wonderful people. It has been challenging while being gratifying – difficult at times, but always rewarding.”