Longtime city of La Porte employees to retire
For decades, the city of La Porte has been a major focus for Steve and Martha Gillett.
This month the Gilletts will begin a new adventure together: retired life.
Martha, city secretary, has worked for the city for more than 21 years in two stints. Her last day will be Wednesday, Jan. 19.
Steve, public works director, has worked for the city since 1980. He will retire Friday, Jan. 21.
"It's a little scary, but we're looking forward to the next chapter of our lives," said Steve, 56.
La Porte Mayor Louis Rigby has known Steve since the mid-1980s and has known Martha, a native La Porte resident, all of her life. They both have earned his respect, he said.
"The knowledge and experience they're going to take with them will be greatly missed," Rigby said. "They're not only employees of the city, they're very good friends of my wife and I."
Martha, 52, said she and Steve were acquainted as students at La Porte High School, but they didn't get to know each other until they became colleagues.
She started her career with the city in public works, where Steve was, and then moved to human resources.
Initially, Steve struck her as very strict. "He runs a tight ship, which is a good thing," she said.
After both became single, he asked her on a date. Martha liked the off-duty Steve much better, and they fell in love.
Today they have two children, Crystal Moritz and Christina White, along with a 1 ½-year-old granddaughter, Kate.
Shortly after marrying Steve, Martha left her job with the city. She was concerned it would be a conflict of interest for them to have the same employer.
La Porte officials didn't agree. In 1997 they asked her to return as city secretary.
The arrangement has worked well. Martha answers to the mayor and city council. Steve reports to the city manager and works in a different building.
Martha said she has not regretted her decision to return. "I love the variety," she said. "I love serving the mayor and city council," she said. "Most of all, I love serving the citizens in my community.
"Because I've lived here my entire life, people call me, they talk to me at the store. They know they have someone to come to."
Her goal as city secretary has been to make interactions with her office as easy as possible for the public. "My office prides itself on good public service."
Steve has a similar philosophy. "We exist to serve the citizens, and that's all we're here for," he said.
Steve, who lived as a boy in Crosby, moved with his parents to La Porte in 1969 and graduated from La Porte High School in 1972.
After earning his bachelor's degree from Texas Lutheran College in 1976, he worked briefly in insurance, then in construction.
He first applied for a job with the city of La Porte after a friend told him about an opening in the inspection department. He didn't get it.
That turn of events turned out to be a plus, Steve said. About a month later, he learned La Porte's new public works director was looking for a young college graduate with experience in construction to join his staff.
Steve got the job, as well as a mentor. He started as a project coordinator for the department in 1980, moved through the ranks and became public works director in 1986.
"I have had an excellent staff from top to bottom," Steve said.
He has overseen construction projects involving water/sewer infrastructure, roads and drainage systems and buildings, including La Porte's police station and municipal courthouse, which won Texas Construction magazine's 2009 Award of Excellence for a government project.
"My priority was to leave the city in better condition than when I found it," Steve said. "We did that."
They also plan to volunteer.
"We're going to stay in the community and stay active," Martha said. "We hope to give back."
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