The end of an era has come for the facilities planning and management department at UW-River with the parting of Michael Stifter as director.
Fortunately, his career move, starting in August, brings him only just down the street to River Falls City Hall for the newly created position of operations director.
Stifter will oversee a staff of 20 for the city's facilities maintenance, engineering and public works. His annual salary is $100,000.
The decision to make the move has been one Stifter’s considered for a while, but never seriously until the opportunity was presented itself.
“It's just the opportunity, that's the best way to describe this decision,” Stifter said. “I'd done a very limited search. I wasn't really looking for positions, I'd been selective in that regard.”
“But in this case, to be able to do things very similar to my current role, at a time in my career where I have a good 10-15 years left of work, you look at if there is a time in your career where you should make that change or move.”
Stifter started at UWRF in 1999 working in Residence Life and Student Life. After eight years, the finished construction of South Fork Suites residence hall and the University Center, built in 2004 and 2007, helped him make the transition to a new position.
“Certainly building South Fork Suites was a highlight,” Stifter said. “That's kinda what set the move for me from Student Life to facilities, working on that project, as well as the University Center.
“You know that was the first new residence hall on campus in 30 years. That and the UC were game changers for the campus.”
While huge projects like those buildings, as well as the East Cascade Avenue renovation in 2013 and ongoing stormwater management project have been highlights, Stifter has also enjoyed behind-the-scenes work that keeps the UWRF campus beautiful.
“Lots of the aesthetic improvements to campus have happened in the last 10 years,” he said. “From signage on buildings to grounds work, a lot of different things have gotten a lot more attention to curb appeal. Not real flashy, over-the-top, but persistent, methodical, intentional kinds of ways.
“It's a lot of the small projects behind the scenes that are the touch that make a real difference. It's subtle and hard to put your finger on, and I get a lot of satisfaction from that.”
Moving into his new position with the city, Stifter says he expects to work on many of the same types of projects.
“I'd describe it as similar to a public works director position in many ways,” Stifter said. “I'll really be responsible for daily operations of the city, working with the public works crew, and engineering.
“Projects in public works like city streets, parks, all that area. And engineering by way of stormwater and oversight of staff working on that. It's quite similar to facilities and maintenance, a version of that, but with the city.”
While his office won't be on campus anymore, Stifter looks forward to still be involved with campus in some capacity. He said there will likely be a lot of overlap on projects he's working on in his new position.
“There are certain themes that I think definitely overlap with the city,” Stifter said. “Sustainability, for instance. We work closely with the city already in that regard, from our participation in POWERful! Choices meetings to their participation in our meetings.
“Things like the Blue Bike program and programs that will come out of it. We're all doing similar things, so we should look together for the best way to do it.”
Stifter will officially start his position as the River Falls operations director Monday, Aug. 15. He also was elected to and now serves on the seven-member River Falls school board.
For the complete story, see the July 28 print issue of the River Falls Journal.