Saying Goodbye Will be Difficult

Buck A. Rudd, Tulsa County Building and Fleet Operations Director, has many emotions as his September 30 retirement date approaches.
The first is a bit of sadness because he will miss his courthouse family of more than 30 years.
But there is a second that makes him look forward to retirement. He won’t miss the problems — hiring, disciplining and firing — of dealing with the problems of 90 people in the department.
The job today is far different than when he joined the staff as assistant director in 1979. It is a career that he didn’t plan on.
Rudd’s staff is responsible for maintaining 13 buildings, 300 vehicles and managing various projects for county officials and judges.
His work with Tulsa County began in June 1976 when he was supervisor of the emergency shelter at East 51st Street and South Hudson. That structure was torn down when the county built a new Social Services building.
When Jack Loyd Helton, director of the shelter, was transferred to building operations, Rudd came as assistant and was named director in 1990.
That was the year Helton retired.
About half the 90 people on Rudd’s maintenance staff are janitors with the remainder being in the air conditioning services, plumbers and electrical personnel. Then there are painters and carpenters.
There are 10 auto technicians including mechanics and mechanics helpers.
Each area has a supervisor and lead man, all reporting back to Rudd.
In addition, there are five bookkeepers and clerks in the department.
Twenty five years ago the department had 75 people. But there were fewer buildings, he said. The only staff additions have been to meet current needs.
Building operations is a unique department because it reports to the Board of County Commissioners, Rudd said. But it also must meet the needs of the individual county officers and the judiciary.
Sometimes it is difficult to meet the demands of individual officers because everyone considers their needs a top priority.
‘‘We try to meet each request in a timely manner, but sometimes people get frustrated because they don’t feel we are getting to them fast enough,’’ he said. ‘‘One of the strong points of the department is that staff members consider themselves professionals — and they conduct themselves accordingly.’’
As a result, they are able to work in all areas of the main courthouse building, going into judicial chambers to perform their tasks even when court is in session.
That spirit of cooperation experience today is different than 20 years ago when some of the courthouse personalities and judges wanted their projects done immediately, Rudd said. The job remained enjoyable despite the personalities.
One part of the maintenance wasn’t fun for anyone.
When the Tulsa County Jail was on the eighth and ninth floors of the courthouse someone on the maintenance staff was on duty around the clock.
Prisoners had too much time and knew the courtrooms were on the seventh floor, Rudd said. As a result, they always were figuring out ways to plug the toilets and flood the area. Cleanup and repair was an ongoing effort.
As the county facilities age, there will be additional maintenance problems, he continued. Many of these buildings are more than 50 years old and are just wearing out.
‘‘We have been able to keep up with the maintenance despite the age and have taken some steps to make them more efficient,’’ Rudd said.
One step was in energy conservation.
New heating and air conditioning was installed in the courthouse and annex seven years ago at a cost of $1.6 million. Savings from the automated system would retire the debt.
To date, about $2 million has been realized in savings in electricity, Rudd said. Tulsa County was the first to take advantage of legislation allowing local governments and schools to borrow the money for energy conservation projects. One person can sit at the controls and adjust heating and air conditioning. During the Labor Day weekend when temperatures cooled, it was possible to turn off the equipment.
Lights also were upgraded to more energy efficient technology.
The fleet maintenance department does an outstanding job keeping county vehicles running, Rudd said. Priority is given to keeping the sheriff’s vehicles running.
That work also is recognized by others — the district attorney’s office and U.S. Marshalls — who have contracted their vehicles for maintenance.
The marshalls came to the county seeking the contract, he said. They knew the reputation of the garage and its staff.
The garage, under the direction of maintenance supervisor Jim Fissel, has expanded to seven bays and full service, up from three bays and a gasoline station oil change operation, Rudd said.
Personnel work in a clean area and some are trained to do diagnostics, repair and preventive maintenance work on vehicles.
The county also has two capable automobile technicians who have left dealerships, he said. This has been a great boon to the operation ‘‘and we are very fortunate to have these guys.’’ So much is different today with fuel injection systems on vehicles instead of carburetors.
Hiring qualified personnel is becoming even more of a challenge, Rudd continued. The carpentry shop is particularly hard-hit because of the construction work now underway in the area.
Cabinet makers are needed, but unavailable because these individuals can make more in private industry, he said. These are not framers.
These individuals have been working on the judges chambers and are about to complete a remodeling project that started nearly a decade ago.
The same hiring problems apply to mechanics, air conditioning technicians and electricians.
‘‘We are not competitive in wages, but the benefits program offered by the county is very good,’’ Rudd said. Hopefully, wage issues will be addressed by the budget board in the future as the economy improves.
Even in retirement, Rudd will be active. He is a member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors and is taking classes on repairing old timepieces.
‘‘My friends also will find me at the Tulsa Flea Market on Saturdays where I will be set up to peddle some of the stuff I have,’’ he added.



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