By Thursday afternoon Scott Bird’s office at City Hall was almost cleared out. There were some boxes on the floor and the top of his desk was empty. Bird, who finished his 37-year career with the City of Ottawa on Friday was still struggling to pack everything.
“It doesn’t look totally bare yet,” he said on Thursday. “I started to take the pictures off the wall and decided I couldn’t do that.”
Bird spent his first 10 years with the city working at the power plant. He started working for the city just after graduating from high school. He then switched his shift to evenings and graveyard so he could go to school at Ottawa University.
“I went back to finish my degree and in 1991, I was offered the chance to move to City Hall and I have been there ever since,” he said.
His first position at City Hall was as the city accountant in the finance department. When longtime director of finance, Pete Smith, retired, Bird was named city clerk and finance director.
“It was a surprise when I got the phone call from the city manager, he said. “I wanted to get away from shift work so I had started to put out resumes. I had the great privilege to work with Pete,” he said. “I learned a lot from him and also the city manager of that time. I learned a lot in the year and a half period and even after that. I had a good staff and a good finance team around me.”
As he looks back one of the biggest changes his offices has experienced is in the area of technology. Bird recalled that when he completed his first budget, it was all done by hand. He said the office only had two or three computers at the time.
“I would have never thought then that I would be able to work at home from my laptop and then be able to access that in the office the next day,” he said.
Bird said dealing with the financial struggle of 2008 and software changes have been some of the biggest challenges.
“I’m excited to be retiring but definitely sad,” he said. “It’s a mix of emotions but others that I have talked to have told me that it will feel like vacation for awhile. I’ve had a lot of people that have retired before me tell me that it’s a good thing. And I know my wife is looking forward to having me around more and I’m glad for that.”
As he reflects on his time with the city, one of the things that was a challenge was moving to the new City Hall building, 101 S. Hickory. He recalled staying up most of the night to get the office ready to open the next day. He also was happy to be a part of the half cent sales tax that voters passed.
Bird will take some time to enjoy his retirement by resting and relaxing and has some travel plans already made but most of his time will be spent serving his church even more than he does now. Bird will increase his time behind the pulpit to two times a month, something he is looking forward to. He is also excited about his church’s plans to reach out to the community.
“Our church has been very aware of the needs in our community,” he said. “We have been fortunate to buy the property on either side of us and that has given us some green space. The neighborhood has been using that green space and we are okay with that. So much so that our board purchased some playground equipment and invited the neighborhood kids to enjoy it and we envision putting in a small pad with a basketball goal.”
Bird’s career has been about service and he plans to continue that theme through his work at the church.