Keith Riger retired in May after a 30-year career with the City of DeLand, and Public Works Director Demetris Pressley stepped down from a 17-year tenure with the city.
Three decades after starting with the city, Riger told The Beacon he’s looking forward to retirement. He looked back fondly on his time with the city.
“It’s been a great job,” Riger said. “DeLand’s a great city. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Riger first began working for the City of DeLand in 1990 in the same position he retired from — public-services director.
He was born in Chicago, grew up in upstate New York and, after receiving engineering degrees from Georgia Tech and the University of Florida, landed in Atlanta, where he worked with the city’s wastewater and pollution programs.
There, he was able to put his master’s degree in environmental engineering to good use. It wasn’t until 1983 that he made his way to Ormond Beach, where he worked as a consulting engineer until joining the City of DeLand team in 1990.
He worked for DeLand for about five years, then decided to go back to consulting.
“I was at that age I needed to make a career move,” Riger said.
Riger wasn’t back in consulting for long. In 1998, after consulting on a project that involved the City of DeLand, he realized what he was missing.
“Basically, I’ve had the same job in DeLand — with the exception of those few years I was gone — since 1990,” Riger said.
And what a job it was.
“I did everything from working with land-development projects, to utility projects, to the airport,” he said. “All the public-works things — streetscaping, urban beautification. A lot of variety all over the place.”
DeLand was undergoing a lot of change when Riger began.
“When I first started, the city had expanded in 1990 beyond the big square bounded by Beresford, Plymouth, High and Hill avenues,” he explained.
In expanding, the city had additional concerns to keep in mind, from increased traffic to increased water usage, an issue that is important to Riger. During his watch, the city has gotten pretty good at water conservation.
“In the early 1990s, the City of DeLand pumped 10-11 million gallons of water a day,” he said. “Thirty years later, our water demand throughout the year is a little over 5 million [gallons] a day, and we rarely have days where we pump more than 7 [million gallons].”
The shrinking of water use comes as DeLand’s population has more than doubled. Part of the picture has been Riger’s emphasis on getting reclaimed water out to communities like Victoria Park, so that drinking water is not used for watering lawns.
“We have done some things to reduce water demand, and I’ve been involved with the Volusia Water Alliance,” Riger said. “We work cooperatively with the other cities — the other water producers — to look at alternative water supply.”
Riger’s concerns about water have helped move DeLand in a more sustainable direction. As Riger leaves, Assistant City Manager Mike Grebosz said sustainability is still top of mind for the city.
DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar agreed, and said Riger will be hard to replace. The mayor said it hit him how much impact Riger had on the city and the county when he saw how many people came to Riger’s celebratory retirement luncheon.
“He was technically proficient, he was good with people, he just was a one-of-a-kind,” Apgar said. “It’s hard to adequately express the accolades he deserves for all his work for the City of DeLand. We all wish him well in retirement, but certainly we’ve lost a great employee and a lot of institutional knowledge.”
Public Works Director Demetris Pressley is opting for early retirement to pursue other endeavors.
Pressley and his wife, Monica, moved to DeLand in the wake of Hurricane Charley in 2004. Initially working in emergency management, Pressley fell in with the City of DeLand’s Public Works Department.
In the wake of hurricanes and tornadoes, Pressley defined his career with the city.
“One of the things that stood out to me was the togetherness the team brought, no matter what department,” he said. “We worked as a team, almost as a tightknit family, to make sure the city was taken care of and back up and running in a feasible time.”
At only 40 years old, Pressley is awfully young for a retiree. He is turning his part-time pastoral calling into a full-time ministry job at Livingston Street Church of God in Orlando, where he is a lead pastor.
“Retire’s a tough word for a youngster like me,” Pressley told The Beacon with a laugh. “We decided to make the move into a more full-time ministry role. To focus more on ministry and take care of the needs of that. I was not able to continue in both roles.”
Grebosz said Pressley did great work during his tenure with the City of DeLand and that he will certainly be missed.
“Demetris started as a maintenance worker and made his way up through the organization to become the director of public works, which is a very inspirational and motivating achievement,” Grebosz said. “On a side note, it was also great to have a pastor on staff to help when we needed a prayer at the start of a commission meeting or other function.”
While the two men are pursuing different endeavors in their retirements from the City of DeLand, they agreed on one thing: Their peers at the City of DeLand are top-notch people.
“They are team players, and beyond that, they just need to try to enjoy the job and be good public servants,” Riger said of his former co-workers.
“There’s a challenge in today’s society as a whole, but I do believe there are some good people at the city,” he said. “Those coming in, they’re going to inherit a strong, tightknit family group.”
In Mayor Apgar’s eyes, Pressley was certainly one of those people.
“The thing about Demetris is, he worked his way up through the ranks. That demonstrated to me that he wanted to continue to improve himself, to take on more responsibility to serve the community,” Apgar said. “I think he’s just a good example of a person who wants to do the best he can and be the best person he can.”
City Manager Michael Pleus told The Beacon he is in the process of selecting individuals to fill the roles left vacant by Pressley and Riger. In time, new individuals will be filling the big shoes left by the two men and beginning their own careers with the City of DeLand.