The Kewaunee County Board bid farewell Tuesday (June 18) to two prominent department heads on their retirement.
Robert Mattice is retiring July 1 after 34 years with the county Human Services Department, the last several as its chief.
“Thirty-four years is a long time to dedicate yourself to one employers, especially in a profession that deals with shattered homes, battered kids and broken lives,” County Administrator Scott Feldt said. “It takes a special person to come to work day after day, year after year, and put your heart and soul into making people’s lives better.”
Human Services has had its share of challenges in the five years Feldt has been administrator, and “when I needed someone to bring a sense of calm to the department, I looked to Bob for help, and he responded,” he said.
Mattice thanked his wife, Marge, and the men who hired him for the job – “It’s been a fun ride,” he said.
His final words to the board were on behalf of his staff.
“Number One, remember you’ve got a great staff down in Human Services. Show them some love,” Mattice said. “Let them know that they’re appreciated. There’s no way of knowing what it’s like to be a Human Services worker unless you’ve actually been down in the trenches.”
Jane Babcock, who was the county Veterans Service officer for the past five years, has a fearlessness and a passion for helping her veterans, Feldt said, citing “the story of Jane dressing down a full-bird colonel in the Pentagon because he’s not willing to move the paperwork along to get a veteran the benefits that he deserves and earned. Jane is tenacious.”
Babcock, who retired June 14, said as a native New Yorker she at first had a sense of Kewaunee as being “at the edge of the world” but found how much the people of the community care about each other.
“You hear the small-town thing about how everybody knows everybody else’s business, and that’s true,” Babcock said, “but it’s not that you’re looking to do anything harmful or degrade anybody else, you’re doing it because you’re keeping an eye out … for each other.”
And her last words for for the people she served:
“To my veterans – the few who stood in harm’s way so that we have the right to join here tonight in this type of a meeting, I will miss you sorely, but I carry you with me every day.”
Top photo: Bob Mattice is congratulated by Kewaunee County Administrator Scott Feldt on his pending retirement as head of the county Human Services Department.