South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem declared December 27, 2019 as Bryan Lambrechts Day in South Dakota. Lambrechts retired that day from his duties at the City of Milbank after 39 years of service. Governor Noem commended him on his dedication, honesty, and work ethic. She also recognized his contribution to developing a safe and efficient street and highway system for the City of Milbank and the State of South Dakota.
Bryan started with the City of Milbank doing street maintenance and ended overseeing the streets and parks department. It’s no surprise, tending to the streets in a midwestern town in winter is not always a warm and cushy job. Every time there was a blizzard, Bryan and his crew were up as early as 2 a.m. hustling to get ahead of the traffic that would pack the snow on the streets.
And, of course, the work didn’t start when the storm did, constant maintenance was required. Getting the chains on the big plow was at the top of the Milbank City crew’s to-do-list, even on Bryan’s last day on the job. The weatherman predicted heavy, wet snow, this weekend and lots of it. The plows needed to be ready to go.
Bryan says in four decades he witnessed some important changes. “One of the most positive” he says, “was the equipment got better.” Another he says was Milbank’s new shop. “Although, now it’s 20 years old, it improved things enormously.” The new building included more room and heated floors to thaw out the equipment. Machines, like people, don’t function as well when they’re cold.
Another change — the change of seasons — Bryan says, “was one of the best things about his job.” Working outside to patch and repair the streets, fix a storm sewer, put up a new sign, and prepare for the next season was nice. It was more diverse and kept him in tune with the rhythm of nature.
He says there’s a lot to keep track of, but he learned from the best. He first started working on the streets during the summers of 1978 and 1979, and his boss was his dad, Duane Lambrechts. Bryan went full time in 1980, and says, “My dad demanded more of me than the other workers.”
Both were employed on the crew when the worst storm Bryan can remember hit. According to the National Weather Service, it was March 2, 1985. “A massive winter storm struck the Northern Plains Region. The storm produced up to 33 inches of snow in northeastern South Dakota, at Summit and at Milbank, and also produced high winds which whipped the heavy snow into drifts twenty feet high.” Bryan recalls, “The crew had to take the v-plow down the middle of the streets just to open them up. The plow couldn’t even push it. Man, that was something!”
After 12 years of training from his dad, Bryan was ready to take over when Duane retired in 1996. Bryan had transfered to the wastewater department for four years from 1992-1996, but went back to taking care of the streets. He says he continued to call on his dad for advice, though.
He said the guys he worked with were always the best part of the workday. “We got along great and were always joking around with each other. I always felt more like a co-worker, and never adjusted to being called Boss.” Nonetheless, he passed the title on to Scott Meyer.
Bryan said one piece of advice he has for Meyer as he takes over is to realize he is not going to make everyone happy. He hopes, though, the community will be patient with the crew about snow removal. “The guys will get there. They are working as fast as they can…especially for such a small crew as Milbank has.”
Bryan now looks forward to spending more time with his family. His son, Eric, lives in Aberdeen, and his daughter, Amanda lives in Sioux Falls. The first grandchild in the family arrived last February.
In the summer, his wife, Becky a fifth grade teacher at Koch School, will be on vacation and the couple plans to go camping and maybe do a little traveling. He is also excited to go golfing and all the other “ing” things like hunting and fishing he hasn’t had time to do for quite a while.
Now that he is retired, you might think he never wants to see another pile of snow. But, as the saying goes, when it snows you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels. The vote was close, but Bryan signed on with the city crew to continue to work part time —you guessed it — plowing snow.