Former city manager Bill Watkins to manage Riback Supply Co.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 | 7:05 p.m. CDT; updated 9:50 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 26, 2011

COLUMBIA ­— After working with the city for 23 years, former City Manager Bill Watkins will serve as the new top manager of Riback Supply Co.

Watkins confirmed Tuesday that he will replace Ernie Gaeth at Riback, who left the company for health reasons.

Watkins said he was looking for something different that would keep him in Columbia. As general manager, he will oversee the operation.

Riback Supply Co. sells plumbing, heating and cooling products to builders, contractors and homeowners through designer kitchen stores.

“We have 150 employees at 20 locations, so you have to have someone who’s had some experience in management in a larger environment,” Gaeth said.

Watkins said many of the skills he acquired in city government will come in handy.

“Knowledge of the community will be helpful, and knowledge of the state will be helpful,” he said.

However, he said he didn't accept the position immediately. 

“It took awhile,” he said. “I gave it some serious thought."

He said he was contacted after announcing his retirement and didn’t want to talk about terms of employment until after he'd left the city position. Watkins announced his plans to retire as city manager in October and officially left in March.

Once he was no longer with the city, Watkins said, Gaeth approached him again to ask about his interest in the position.

“I’ve been in Columbia a long time,” Gaeth said. “I’ve known him a long time and thought he had the proper management skills and proper demeanor and would fit into our company.”

Watkins will begin work with Riback in August.

“I think he’s going to travel awhile and vacation and clear his mind,” Gaeth said. “I’m pleased to have such a qualified person to be my successor.”

Watkins seemed pleased about his future with the local business.

“It’s a great company," Watkins said. "I’m excited to be affiliated with them.”

Mike Matthes takes over as Columbia’s city manager next week.

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