Ralph McIntosh retires as district GM
By Karen Brainard
When Ralph McIntosh was hired by the Ramona Municipal Water District as a meter reader at age 19, he viewed it as a temporary job.
But then, “I started realizing I wanted to stay in the community. So my temporary job,” he laughed, “became almost 39 years of… permanent employment.”
Now, after all those years of working his way up through the water district, McIntosh is retiring from the top post—that of general manager.
Oct. 6, his 58th birthday, will mark McIntosh’s last day as an employee of the Ramona water district.
With his retirement, McIntosh and his wife, Roberta, are looking forward to spending more time visiting family. They plan to hit the open road in their 36-foot motor home and take their time traveling across the South before reaching their son, Seth, and his wife, Nichole, in Florida, where they will spend Thanksgiving. After returning home for a short while, McIntosh and his wife will head out to spend Christmas in Eugene, Ore., with their daughter and son-in-law, Courtney and Danny Allison, and 5½-year-old granddaughter Kylie.
“She’s a bundle of joy,” McIntosh said fondly of his granddaughter.
When asked how often he and his wife plan to visit their family members, he replied, “Probably as often as we can.”
Owning a motor home wasn’t something McIntosh had planned.
“I always said we’d never get a motor home,” McIntosh said. But in 2009 when economic times hit the RV market, he found a good deal.
“It was really a deal we couldn’t refuse,” he said, but admitted, “It’s a learning curve driving it.”
He realizes it will take a while to adjust his natural clock, which he said has gotten him up at 5 a.m. for the past 38 years. And as general manager he has been attached to his cell phone 24/7.
McIntosh is a fifth generation Ramonan. When he was 19 his parents told him to either get a job or go to school. When a position opened at the water district, his father suggested he apply. That was back in March 1973 and he started at $2.73 per hour as a meter reader. After six months, his first pay raise took him to $3.16 an hour.
Ramona was a lot smaller then, recalled McIntosh. There were about seven employees in the field and “we did everything from meter reading to meter installations to…water main installations, fire hydrant repairs, main line repairs…We got to do it all.”
From meter reader he went to utility service worker.
“And then the community started growing in the mid-70s or so and we had a lot of water meter installations going in. I don’t know for sure right now but I think I probably installed more water meters than anybody in the agency,” he said, estimating they were put in about 2,000 water meters per year. By comparison, McIntosh said the water district only installed about 10 meters last year.
McIntosh was promoted to meter installation crew chief and in 1980 became a systems operator 1 where duties included running the pump stations and the storage tanks. Over the years he worked his way up and became systems supervisor around 1998.
Around 2004 he was promoted to water operations superintendent. That was followed by a brief stint as water operations manager in 2008, the same year he was approached by board members to replace Tom Brammell, who was retiring as general manager.
“When it was offered to me, my chin hit the ground because it was something I had never envisioned or aspired to do,” recalled McIntosh. He went home to think about it and talk to his family, who told him to go for it.
The years at the water district will serve McIntosh well in his retirement. Although McIntosh said he will not know when he will receive his first pension check or the exact amount until he severs employment with the district, he thinks the pension will come close to his current annual salary of $173,000.
McIntosh said working for the people of the community in which he was born and raised has “been an honor and a pleasure.”
Tough times have called for tough decisions, but he said every decision or recommendation he made was done in the best interest of the district and the community. He sympathizes with customers who are having a difficult time paying their water bills but said their burden can’t be shifted to those who are paying their bills.
The best part of working for the water district has been the people, he said.
“We have a great bunch of employees who are very knowledgeable, very dedicated. They take their jobs very personally,” said McIntosh.
McIntosh noted that a lot of RMWD’s employees have been there 25 years or more.
“As I get closer, I’m glad I’m retiring but I know that it’s going to be tough not coming in and seeing the people that I’ve seen for many years on a daily basis. They’re like a family, a second family to me.”
He does believe that he is leaving the district in very capable hands. David Barnum, who has served the water district as chief financial officer since March 2008 and as assistant general manager since January, will step into McIntosh’s position.
“David is a very intelligent man and really on the ball,” McIntosh said. “I think once I move out and he moves in, no one will know the difference.”
To help Barnum with the transition, McIntosh will continue to serve as the district’s representative to the San Diego County Water Authority Board until at least March 2012.
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