By ZEINAB NAJM
TRENTON — Changes in city government are coming this month as two longtime employees, City Administrator Scott Church and Parks & Recreation Director Joann Gonyea, announced they are retiring Feb. 19.
Both notified the City Council and Mayor Steven Rzeppa of their plans during a Feb. 1 meeting.
Church has worked in the city for over 28 years, with the last three as city administrator. He previously worked as deputy city administrator and Human Resources director before his current position.
“I would like all of you to know it has been an absolute honor and privilege of mine, both personally and professionally, to serve the city over the last 28-and-a-half years,” Church said, “the last three specifically as the city administrator.
“I truly appreciate each and every one of you that has supported me personally and professionally through the years and also to all the previous mayors and councils, department heads and employees. It is time for me to call it a career so I still have three weeks to go. A lot of work to do in that amount of time, so we’ll save our goodbyes for another day.”
Rzeppa said he would save his “lengthy spiel” for Church since he is still going to be a city employee for another three weeks and because there is going to be another council meeting before then.
“I do want to say thank you and that it’s been a pleasure,” Rzeppa said. “And to say that we wouldn’t be here without you would be a gross understatement. So I really can’t say it enough.”
Taking over Church’s position will be Fire Chief Dean Creech. He will serve as acting city administrator for the next nine months, the same amount of time Rzeppa is mayor.
“I’m really thrilled that Chief Creech has accepted this role,” Rzeppa said. “I’m very excited. Over the past five years that Chief Creech has been with the city of Trenton — our department has been incredible strides in the time he has been here.”
Creech previously served as acting fire chief and deputy chief in the Dearborn Fire Department. Deputy Fire Chief Keith Anderson will step in to become acting fire chief.
“Dean is someone that has the respect of all our other department heads and of everyone that works under him in the department,” Rzeppa said. “He has done an incredible job between personnel management and having a fresh set of eyes and creative outside the box thinking within his department.”
During the same meeting, Gonyea said she made the difficult decision to retire after more than 35 years of service following much soul searching, careful consideration and contemplation.
“This announcement comes with some trepidation, but it also comes with great anticipation for a new beginning and chapter in my life,” Gonyea said. “Having the incredible opportunity to my work entire career as a parks and recreation professional for the city of Trenton has really, truly been an absolute gift.
“I will be forever grateful for the ability to share my love and passion for parks and recreation within the entire Trenton community all these years. It has been a blessing to have had the change to work with so many wonderful people, sitting in this room and others and developing lifelong friendships.”
Gonyea also has three more weeks left working as director, in which she said are going to be extremely busy. She said that even after her retirement, she hopes to continue her community involvement in various ways.
“Again, it’s been an extreme pleasure and gift to have been employed and worked for this community,” Gonyea said. “It has not been a job, it has been my life and I’m going to miss it, but I know that there’s other opportunities to follow so I’m taking that leap of faith and I’m truly looking forward to it.”
Rzeppa also said he is going to save his longer speech on Gonyea’s service to the city closer to her retirement date. Before making brief comments, Rzeppa said he knew Gonyea years before he became an elected official because he used to work in the recreation department.
“As I told Joann, it’s not like I’m even saying goodbye,” Rzeppa said. “I know I’m going to see you around here all the time. It’s been nothing but a pleasure to be able to work with you. Over 35 years, it’s truly incredible and I can’t say thank you enough.”
Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Tim Beaker will begin serving as director of the department later this month.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)