In 1969, Richard Yerkey answered a newspaper employment ad for Director of Business Services in the School District of New London.
The ad stated, “Must be able to follow a project through from concept to completion.”
Forty-one years later, as he stood painting the cinder block walls of his office days before his retirement, the brush stopped for a moment. “It’s been a heck of a ride,” said Yerkey, who was only 24 years-old when he was hired as Business Services Manager.
As he bent down to dip the brush into a paint can he paused, and added, “You know, there were days I’m sure when a few board members or administrators would have liked to shoot me out of a cannon and watch me land someplace else, but that never happened,” he said. “I’m fortunate that over the years a lot of people tolerated a lot of my short comings-I wasn’t a silk purse back then and I’m not now,” said Yerkey as he stretched his brush to the top of the window sill.
Yerkey is known for his meticulous attention to detail, his obsession for work, strong convictions and ability to communicate the blunt truth to anyone, no matter how uncomfortable it may have been.
During his 41 years with the district Yerkey has worked with five different administrators and dozens of board members. He was always the first to arrive at the office, often long before daylight, and typically he stayed until 5 p.m. five days a week.
During his long days, Yerkey helped to shape the organization in the areas of fiscal management, facilities management, food service and transportation services.
He also leaves behind quite a legacy in project management.
“Mr. Yerkey had an exceptional work ethic and was always seen as a workhorse,” explains District Administrator Bill Fitzpatrick. “In his role as project manager, he has an impressive list of accomplishments.”
Yerkey’s first project saw Parkview Elementary School being built in 1969. Other projects include the agriculture building (current building & grounds facility) in 1979; administration building in 1980; additions to Parkview and Readfield Elementary schools in 1990; bus garage in 1991; Lincoln Elementary School in 1994; and the new high school with renovations to the middle school in 1998. Recent accomplishments include the addition of three kindergarten classrooms at Parkview and the athletic complex on the High School campus in 2009.
Fitzpatrick also noted Yerkey’s foresight when it came to preparing the district for the 21st century.
“A specific project that sometimes goes unnoticed is the district’s technology infrastructure. In the 1980’s, Mr. Yerkey demonstrated his skills by showing the foresight to establish a robust and state-of-the-art technology infrastructure which today connects all city schools and the public library with fiber optic cable and the two outlying schools in Sugar Bush and Readfield using alternative methods. Through his guidance, this infrastructure continues to serve the district well for nearly 30 years. There isn’t much in the world of technology that can make such a claim,” said Fitzpatrick.
Yerkey said no matter what the project was at hand, he loved taking them on. “Whether it’s putting a budget together, costing for projects, or building,” explained Yerkey. “I love to do it. I love seeing things through to the end.”
His philosophy is really quite simple as he puts it.
“You have to figure out what you need with the money you have. First you have to know what the end result has to be, then you work backwards from there,” he said. “The bottom line is that it has to benefit kids.”
Yerkey has met his replacement, Joseph Marquardt several times as he transitioned his office. Marquardt assumed the post Jan. 3.
“I told him this business is about kids, and if you have anything else on your mind other than that, don’t bother taking the job,” said Yerkey. “If it doesn’t benefit kids, you’re in the wrong business.”
“I worked as hard I could and did everything I knew to benefit kids,” said Yerkey
He and his wife Barb raised five children who attended school in the district.
“For my wife and I there was nothing ever more important than getting our kids an education,” explained Yerkey. All five are now grown and working either in education or another form of people services. “They’re all serving others, as a parent I don’t think you could ask for anything more than that,” said Yerkey.
Yerkey was raised in a small house near Fremont and attended a one room school house on County Highway H as a child. After secondary school his educational opportunities were limited because of work and family obligations.
During his last meeting with the board of education in December, Yerkey thanked everyone connected with the School District of New London and said, “A kid from a one room school house (Fountain Valley) raised in North of Fremont next to Templeton Bayou couldn’t have asked for a better career.”
In the late 60’s when he started his job at New London, most people didn’t switch careers like they do nowadays. “Back then it was a common understanding that when you found a job that fit, it was for life,” said Yerkey.
“I never gave moving a thought, after I got this job. “Why would we want to go somewhere else? This is home-it’s a great place,” he said.
Yerkey doesn’t have any specific retirement plans.
“I’m going to get up every morning, thank the good Lord that I’m still here, and then think about what I’m going to do,” he said, as he moved his paint brush from side to side.
He paused again.
“You know, for 47 years I’ve punched someone else’s clock. We have seven grandchildren and one on the way. I have a boat that’s 10 years old and hardly been used, I’ve got fishing tackle I haven’t touched in 47 years-so there are lots of things to do,” said Yerkey. “Thankfully I still have my wonderful wife of 41 years, and of course I’ll do what she wants to do, too.”