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The hands-on leader also managed to fulfil a lifelong dream of being a long-haul trucker.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
After 33 years of service to Roanoke, Kit Kiser got a chance to live a dream - when he retired as assistant city manager in 2000, he hit the road as a tractor-trailer driver.
"He told me it was always something he dreamed of doing," Roanoke Mayor David Bowers recalled. "He told me about seeing the Black Hills, Wyoming. He went all over."
But he always came back to Roanoke.
Kit B. Kiser, 69, died Monday, and is remembered as a down-to-earth country boy who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, making sure the water that city residents drank was safe and that what the wastewater plant sent back to the river was clean.
"He used to say that the water coming out of the treatment plant was clean enough to drink. Somebody doubted that, so he went down and took a glass of water from the outfall and drank," Bowers recalled.
"He didn't get sick."
Kiser managed Roanoke's water and sewer systems through three crises - the 1980-81 drought, the 1985 flood and another drought in 1999.
His style was hands-on.
"A new guy was starting at the wastewater plant and the superintendent, Mr. Zimmerman, was showing him around the first day. They come up to a big excavation and there's this guy climbing out, hard hat, all muddy ... Mr. Zimmerman says: 'And now I'd like to introduce you to my boss. This is Kit Kiser,' " recalled Scott Shirley , director of wastewater operations at Western Virginia Water Authority.
"And it was Kit, down in the hole, checking on things."
Even after retirement, Kiser liked to come back to the plant to see how it and his former colleagues were doing, said Shirley, who worked with him for 18 years.
His former colleagues say he tackled everything with energy and good humor, taking on the additional responsibilities of assistant city manager toward the end of a career that started in 1967, when he started working as a utility engineer for the city.
"He was a good old country boy, loved to go coon hunting," said Jim Grisso , retired city finance director.
A native of Haysi, Kiser was a graduate of Virginia Tech, where he was in the Corps of Cadets. He served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1965 to 1967, when he joined the city's water department.
A funeral service will be held at 7 tonight at Gospel Light Baptist Church with Dr. Brian Swafford and Pastor Earl Clemons officiating. The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. at the church before the funeral.
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