Kemp retires after decades in wastewater department



HUNTINGBURG — Mike Kemp is moving on to the next chapter of his life.

Kemp will retire from his position as Huntingburg wastewater manager on Friday.

Kemp, 57, has worked for the City of Huntingburg for 27 years. “Before that, I was working in construction and wanted something more steady,” he said. “I had kids, and wanted something with benefits. So I applied for a job with the city.

He joined the city’s water department as a distribution system operator in 1992. “Like most people,” he said, “I didn’t have any experience when I started.”

But Kemp, like others, learned the ropes, studied the manuals and earned the needed certifications to work in and operate a plant.

In 1996, Kemp moved to the wastewater department to became the lab technician chief operator. “It was a learning process,” he said. “But it wasn’t hard to transition.”

At that time, the wastewater plant was in the process of being upgraded so that it could handle more capacity; the upgrades were completed in 1997.

Kemp was named interim manager in June 2010, following the death of former manager Ron Hall. Kemp became the permanent manager the following month.

With that position, Kemp had more responsibility. The project to the install the plant’s flood had been planned and was about to start; it was completed in 2011.

Other projects followed.

The plant’s bypass flow building, which helped reduce pressure on the system, was installed in 2013. In 2015, work started on the force main and lift station project. “This was to make more capacity for the new subdivisions, like Hunters Crossing,” Kemp said, “and for future customers.”

That work was completed in 2016.

Kemp and his crew worked on a phosphorous removal system, which the Indiana Department Environmental Management and the Environmental Protection Agency required all wastewater plants to have. The mandate came in 2010, and the wastewater plant started working on a design in 2011; the system’s installation was completed in 2017.

During his tenure, Kemp also worked on the department’s finances. He implemented a preventative detailed maintenance program for the treatment plant and collection system. He streamlined and improved the residential sewer lateral inspection process. And he implemented the inflow and infiltration program.

Kemp is looking forward to passing the responsibility to current plant foremen Brad Coomer, who will become the next wastewater manager.

“He has been training for the last two months. He’s ready,” Kemp said. “The plant should be in good condition for Brad to take over.”

As for Kemp, he plans to enjoy retirement with his wife, Jacque, who retired in March, their five adult children, and their 11 grandchildren.

“I want to spend more time with them, work on my hobbies, fish,” he said, “you know, have fun. You only live once.”

He knows he will miss the crew he works with daily.

“It’s like family after a while,” Kemp said. “They’re a good crew. They make my job easier.”

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