Physical Plant Director Jim Ruzicka will be leaving Hastings College at the end of this academic year, taking on the same role at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Ruzicka first worked in the maintenance department at Central Community College in Grand Island while taking classes toward his bachelor’s degree, which he received from Bellevue University.
He joined the maintenance department at HC in 2000 with a manager position. Nine months later, the director job opened up. Ruzicka has held the position of physical plant director ever since.
“I’ve been in this position for a long time. I’ve dealt with a lot of students, and it’s been a really good experience,” Ruzicka said.
Ruzicka’s job description includes overseeing the whole physical plant department, between grounds, custodial, fleet and the maintenance department. In the past, campus security was also included these categories until that area moved under the dean of students around 10 years ago.
During his time at HC, Ruzicka established unity between all of the physical plant staff so that they work smoothly together.
“When I started, there were some conflicts between maintenance, grounds and custodial departments, they were kind of isolated and didn’t get along very well. So that’s kind of what I tried to bring together, get everybody on the same team. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Ruzicka said.
Ruzicka has made sure the entire college is running and maintained, by delegating regular tasks such as lawn care, snow removal, building maintenance, setup for student activities and the handling of mail packages.
“Summertimes are pretty crazy because once all the students leave, we have to turn the dorms around,” Ruzicka said. “Not only that, but there’s usually big projects going on. It could be building projects, remodel projects, and I will oversee a lot of those and make sure everything is staying on schedule… so by the time fall gets here, everybody’s ready to go.”
Ruzicka has been involved in several additions to campus, from the Osborne Family Sports Complex, Morrison-Reeves Science Center, Sachtleben Observatory, Bronco Village Apartments and Barrett Alumni Center to the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center and Steinhart Plaza.
“All of those projects had a project manager, but I would be working directly with the project manager making sure things didn’t get missed and the project ran smoothly; and when we got done, the building is operating like it’s supposed to,” Ruzicka said.
Ruzicka’s career at HC has spanned three college presidents, and Dr. Travis Feezell would have been his fourth. He has high hopes that Feezell will improve the financial shape of the college.
The HC maintenance department have run into some challenges recently due to tight budgets. According to Ruzicka, there are a lot of maintenance projects that need to be done across campus, but have been deferred due to lack of funds to fix them.
“That’s kind of the biggest challenge, at least for me, trying to keep the place looking good and keep spending down. It’s a challenge, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job,” Ruzicka said.
Ruzicka does not yet know who will take his place, but he is making the most of his remaining time at HC, organizing projects and informing the physical plant staff of where to go from here.
“Right now, I’m trying to transition myself out and put the next person in as good of a position as they can be,” Ruzicka said.
He believes moving into the same position at a different school of similar size will bring a new set of challenges, but he looks forward to a new start. Ruzicka’s move to Lincoln will also bring him closer to some family members in that area.
“It’s been a hard decision for me, because I’ve been here a long time,” Ruzicka said. “But it’s exciting. We’re looking forward to a bit of a change. It’s bittersweet.”