By Stephanie Sauder, Bryant Dakotan editor; reprinted with permission
Over the last 40 years, there have been a lot of changes in the town of Bryant, SD: four changes of Main Street lighting, three changes of water and electrical meter systems and three changes in electrical systems. Mayorship has changed seven times and council members and city finance officers have come and gone as well.
The latest change – the first since 1988 – is the retirement of the city’s superintendent, Garry Ladwig. Garry will retire after serving as the head of maintenance for a total of 40 years, first working in the department from October of 1980 to 1985, then returning in 1988 until his retirement at the end of this month.
A Bryant native, Garry joined the Marines after high school graduation where he was a bomb, rocket and missile troubleshooter. He feels this troubleshooting experience was excellent training for his position as city maintenance. Over the last 40 years, Garry’s responsibilities have included maintaining the park and other city property, plowing snow, and taking care of the electrical and water systems.
Garry also reads the meters every month; until recently, as meters are now read remotely, he walked from house to house, recording each reading. According to his calculations, he’s walked the equivalent of the distance from Miami to Seattle.
He’s also attended about 450 council meetings. Only ten Bryant citizens who were here when he started still reside in Bryant.
Over the years, Garry occasionally had an assistant or part-time help in his department, but for most of his time as the town’s caretaker, he’s done most of the work by himself.
One of his most vivid memories was the time he was attending to a power outage at the assisted living during a thunderstorm and lightning hit the cross on top of the St. Mary Catholic Church across the road. Garry credits God for saving the church and Garry as well.
The variety of challenges each day made the job interesting, but he really enjoyed visiting with the public, the vast majority of the residents being very supportive of him and his job. The downside was probably being on call 24/7.
Garry will officially retire the end of March. Until then, he is helping the newly hired superintendent, Ryan Sikkink, transition into the position. Sikkink is from Castlewood and for the last 13 years, worked at Terex Utilities.
Like his predecessor, Ryan looks forward to the diversity and challenges each day will bring in this job and enjoys doing this kind of work. He knows he has a lot to learn but looks forward to it and appreciates Garry’s guidance this first month on the job. (If the Sikkink name is familiar, Ryan’s wife Kristie is Bryant’s chief finance officer.)
Garry is undecided about his future plans but, like he has for the last 40 years, he looks forward to what each day will bring.
Thank you, Garry, for your dedication to the town of Bryant over the past four decades and congratulations on your retirement. You’ve certainly earned it.