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From garbage collector to director

Ripon public works’ leader worked his way up

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From garbage collector to director

Ripon Public Works Director Ted Johnston stands in front of Ripon City Hall where he has worked for almost 36 years.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED March 23, 2013 2:13 a.m.

Ted Johnston has become something of an icon for getting the job done at Ripon City Hall where he started some 36 years ago as a garbage collector and advanced through a scenario  of assignments before becoming the director of Public Works.

Laughing about driving the refuse truck, he said those were the days when the driver still had to lift the curbside trash cans up into the trucks by hand.  Today that job is all mechanized.

Johnston, 54, has served the community quietly as the head of Public Works since 2000 after being Public Works supervisor for a number of years.  A variety of assignments early-on took him from the water department and water treatment plant operator to head of the Parks Division for a number of years, also serving as building official and building inspector.

The River Road sports facility – Mistlin Sports Park – has been his greatest accomplishment while working for the city.  He said he led city workers in the construction of the ball fields including the irrigation systems, landscaping and installation of the turf.  Currently Johnston is overseeing the creation of a multi-million dollar softball complex around the signature water tower.

He remembered some of the “great people” who had worked for him in the past and have retired from Public Works.  They included Joe Azevedo, Chub Pratt, Dean Black and too many more to mention.

“The Public Works staff is a great group of guys who take pride in their work and take pride in their community,” Johnston chimed. “The city has been good to me and has always treated me well.” 

There are 29 full-time employees in his ranks with two who are seasonal.  Their jobs range from refuse to water, waste water, parks, landscaping, vehicle maintenance and streets, all working nine hours a day.

“Leon (Compton) has been a great city administrator” who is about to retire next month, he said.  “People don’t realize how much he has done for the community,” Johnston said.  Another administrator about to retire that he will miss is City Clerk Lynette Van Laar.

Red Line Hot Wheels is his hobby, having collected over 1,000 of the cars dated between 1968 and 1972.  The majority of them are in storage for safe keeping, he said.

“I played with them as a kid and they still bring back fond memories,” he chuckled.

He grew up on South Manteca Road near Junction near the Stanislaus River.  The family home was equidistant from Ripon schools as it was from Manteca schools – eight miles each.  Johnston had one brother left a vacuum when they left home and his parents opened their doors and their hearts to foster children

Johnston said his administrative philosophy is to “lead by example” and the staffers will follow suit – and they have, he added.

He stressed that his tenure with the city has been quite an opportunity to work with a lot of good people in a community – a community that is superior in all areas.

“I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else,” he said.

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