Printed on: March 29, 2013

Works director retires

Chad Stanger steps down after 40 years on job

By Zach Kyle
zkyle@postregister.com

After 40 years on the job, Chad Stanger is calling it quits.

It is a blunt sentence, befitting a blunt man.

"It's time," Stanger said, direct as always.

Later today, Stanger will leave his large office in the City Annex building for the last time as director of the Idaho Falls Public Works Department.

He's served through 20 city elections. He's sat through more than 900 council meetings.

Stanger, 68, figured his employment with the city would be temporary when he signed on in 1972.

Four decades later, including 28 years as director, he's overseen major projects on wastewater treatment facilities, storm-water management, Sunnyside Road, Memorial Drive and all of the other nuts and bolts that fall under the public works umbrella.

"We are losing a considerable amount of professionalism and expertise," Idaho Falls Mayor Jared Fuhriman said in February after appointing Chris Fredericksen as Stanger's successor. "Keeping up with infrastructure in Idaho Falls is quite a challenge."

Councilwoman Sharon Parry said the Iona native ran his department "like an Iona farm boy with very much a 'make-do' philosophy."

Stanger knew how to get the most out of his resources and facilities and submitted lean budgets, Parry said. That way, when he did request funding, council members took him seriously.

"He's a reduce, reuse, recycle kind of guy," Parry said. "He ekes out the useful life of something like nobody I've ever seen, except my mother-in-law."

Stanger keeps red pencils in his desk drawer. He said he wore them down within inches of the eraser marking up the budgets submitted by workers within his department.

"I've always wanted that credibility with the council. I take pride in that," Stanger said. "I lectured my guys that I expect their budgets to come in the same way. And if they're not, they get cut before the council ever sees them. I'm pretty ruthless."

Stanger could be cantankerous and direct, Bonneville County Commission Chairman Roger Christensen said.

Christensen grew up across an Iona field from Stanger.

"The thing (about Stanger) I always appreciated is you always knew exactly where he stood," Christensen said. "You could have an argument, walk away friends and come back to fight another day."

Fredericksen was the city engineer for nearly nine years. He was groomed to replace Stanger by serving 18 months as his assistant director.

Nevertheless, before his confirmation, Fredericksen said it's a bit intimidating replacing a four-decade institution.

"I tried to gain what I could," Fredericksen said. "He's a great division director, no question about it. They are pretty large shoes to fill."

Stanger appreciated the praise from his colleagues, but he was quick to credit others.

Wise mayors gave directives and wise councils approved budgets, he said.

Creative and hard-working employees kept roads resurfaced and the aging wastewater treatment plant running, he said.

As for Fredericksen?

Stanger said he's more than ready to handle the director's job.

"He's smarter than I am," Stanger said. "He's bright. He's capable. He'll bring a new perspective and fresh ideas. He will be beneficial for the city."

Stanger said he'll spend his free time mending fence at his Iona ranch. He'll miss coming to work, but not the job.

"It's the people (I'll miss), without question," he said, "even if they stir me up every once in awhile."