Public Works passes torch

The Town of Ladysmith will have a new director of infrastructure in the new year as the current director, Joe Friesenhan, is retiring.

The Town of Ladysmith will have a new director of infrastructure in the new year as the current director is retiring.

John Manson will will be taking over for Joe Friesenhan, who has held the position for 13 years. Manson comes to Ladysmith after working five years as the city engineer in Langford. His first day will be January 3.

“We want to thank Joe and wish him a long and happy retirement,” said city manager Ruth Malli.

Friesenhan, 64, has worked in engineering for 37 years. At one time he thought about working past 65, but a life-changing event finalized his decision.

“I had a stroke last year and that was an eye-opener,” Friesenhan said, adding that he has recovered and is fine. “I’ve seen guys retire late and then a couple of weeks later, they were gone.”

Friesenhan started his career working in Lloydminster, Alberta in 1981. He went on to Camrose, Parkland and Fort Nelson in northeast B.C. before making his final move to Ladysmith.

“The first time I came to the Island was in 1972 and I thought that at some point in my life I will want to come back, to move here,” Friesenhan recalled. “The Island is my life. I will be staying in Ladysmith.”

He said he stuck with small towns because it allowed him to wear many hats, which meant he had something different to do each day.

The director of infrastructure position in Ladysmith manages a staff of 20 people and oversees public works, engineering, utilities, parks maintenance, garbage collection, building permits, inspections and the cemetery.

Friesenhan officially retires in May, which is when he turns 65. However, his last day in the office will be in December due to the amount of banked vacation and overtime he is owed.

He plans to spend his retirement travelling and kayaking with his wife, Laura, and visiting Alberta more where his four sons, one granddaughter and one grandson all live.

“I may still do some irregular contract work,” Friesenhan said. “Not because I have to, but because it keeps you involved and I may do some volunteering.”

“My brother and sister are both retired and they said they are busier now than before they retired,” he added. “Those are the ones who make it (into old age).”