BERLIN – After three decades in Berlin, Water Resources and Public Works Director Jane Kreiter will retire in June.
Officials announced Monday that Kreiter, the familiar face at the helm of both the water resources and public works departments, would leave the town June 1. The Salisbury resident said she was simply ready for a change.
“I think I’m just ready for another chapter in my life,” Kreiter said.
Armed with a degree in biology, Kreiter joined town staff 30 years ago in an entry-level position as a wastewater operator trainee. Though overlooked by most people, water and wastewater systems play a key role in environmental health. Kreiter says it was that fact that drew her to the field.
“I felt like water and wastewater was the true environmental calling,” she said. “Without clean water, no life can exist.”
Looking back on those early days, Kreiter said she didn’t intend to spend 30 years in Berlin but recognized even then that the town, in spite of its vacant shopfronts, was poised for positive change.
“I felt like there was a lot I could contribute,” she said. “I saw the potential. There were a lot of good people. Everybody’s heart was in the right place.”
After becoming licensed by the Maryland Department of the Environment as a wastewater operator, Kreiter eventually moved on to become a licensed wastewater superintendent. She’s run the town’s wastewater operations since the mid-1990s and helped the town launch its stormwater utility in 2013. In 2014, when the town’s public works director resigned, Kreiter was asked to lead that department as well.
Kreiter currently oversees 23 employees between public works and water resources.
During her time with the town, Kreiter has been involved in two wastewater treatment plant upgrades, the development of the town’s spray irrigation sites and the creation of its stormwater utility. She is proud to have helped the town establish the largest municipal spray irrigation facility in the state.
“We’re rated at 750,000 gallons per day and there is room for expansion,” she said. “The county pushed for it and we jumped on board. The economy is driven by our coastal bays. We didn’t want to add anything detrimental to that.”
Kreiter considers spray irrigation as true recycling of wastewater.
“We’re using it to grow trees rather than dumping it into the coastal bays,” she said.
The creation of a stormwater utility, and the town’s commitment to making drainage improvements, has also helped improve water quality in the coastal bays. Kreiter said while alleviating flooding was a goal for the municipality, so was improving water quality.
“We didn’t do it because we had to,” she said. “We did it because it was the right thing to do.”
Kreiter said it had been an honor to serve the town’s elected officials. She praised her departments’ employees for their ongoing commitment to the town.
“I’ve been so fortunate to work with the best group of people,” she said. “It’s not just a job for them. They’re as passionate about what they do on a day-to-day basis as anybody could hope for. Berlin residents are very fortunate.”
Though her career with the town will end in June, Kreiter hopes that her wastewater expertise will continue to prove useful in retirement.
“I’m going to live part-time in Belize,” she said. “I want to use my knowledge to help the Belizean people become more environmentally focused.”
Kreiter, whose father was a diplomat, was born in Brazil and grew up traveling throughout Latin America. She’s eager to return and share her experience with people in Belize.
“I’ve been there half a dozen times and fell in love with the place…,” she said. “I want to give back.”
As Kreiter’s approaching retirement was announced during Monday’s council meeting, officials wished her well. Councilman Dean Burrell joked that he still remembered the first time he’d met her.
“She was in a hole in front of my house, digging just as hard as Marvin (Smith) was,” Burrell said.
Mayor Gee Williams thanked Kreiter for her service to the town.
“We wish you a very happy retirement,” he said. “I’m sorry to see you go but you’ve earned it.”