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.