By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – After a six-year run that saw the street department move from a state of “shambles” to a prototype for other cities to consider, Warsaw Public Works Superintendent Jeff Beeler is stepping aside.
In a dramatic turn of events Monday night, Beeler outlined an annual road report to city council Monday night, May 18, that showed the quality of roads in Warsaw have improved significantly – followed by Mayor Joe Thallemer announcing Beeler would step down May 29 and take a job in the private sector.
Beeler, 36, worked for Kosciusko County Highway Department for 10 years before he became Superintendent of Public Works in Warsaw in 2014, replacing Lacy Francis, who was forced out and later convicted following a fraud investigation.
Beeler was left to clean up a department that included numerous vehicles that needed to be replaced and then set his sights on developing a road maintenance program aimed at improving the longevity of asphalt roads – a move that took some convincing since it would take years before the results would show up.
On Monday, in an in-depth analysis of the road program, Beeler told council the quality of city roads, based on Paser, a nationally recognized grading system, shows the quality of roads in the city has risen from a score of a 5 in 2015 to 6.5 in 2020.
Under Beeler, the city embraced a preventative maintenance program that involved several steps that extended the life of pavement. Those included a rejuvenator application that he once compared to skin lotion that keeps pavement flexible to avoid cracks. Other steps include the use of “crack seal” and a liquid road application.
“I’m really proud of that,” Beeler said while crediting his workers as well as Mayor Joe Thallemer and council members for their support.
“With the money always constrained, we’re not able to pave our way to better roads,” Beeler told the council. “For Warsaw, adding these pavement preservation tools to our toolbox led to an overall better road network that would not otherwise be achievable.”
Beeler also established the use of a winter liquid application using brine, established a shop to construct road signs, acquired a snowblower that speeds up snow removal in the downtown and was able to take advantage of $1.8 million in grant money.
In recent years, he’s been asked to offer his insights at various seminars for street departments. During the past two years, he served as President of the Indiana Street Commissioners Association.
Thallemer pointed to Beeler’s development of a strong winter maintenance program, the use of a metering system for dispersion of salt that cut down on road corrosion and the establishment of an automated trash pick up program.
Thallemer praised Beeler, describing him as “a dedicated family man, a God-fearing man and a quality individual with a servant’s heart.”
“Jeff will be missed, but we wish him well,” Thallemer said.
A search for his replacement is underway, Thallemer said.
City Councilman Michael Klondaris said he recalls the fleet of street department vehicles Beeler inherited was “a shambles,” with some having holes in the floorboards and generally unsafe.
“What a tremendous turnaround in, really, a short amount of time – so kudos,” Klondaris said.
Councilman Jerry Frush added, “I don’t know if anybody could do any better.”