After 24 years of service to the city, Water and Light Director Richard Malon has decided to retire, effective Jan. 9.
“I’m 65, and it is time to retire,” Malon said Thursday. “But it’s a good time to make a change. The utilities are in good shape, and I feel good that whoever is going to come in to take over will be able to keep on very nicely.”
Malon has overseen major growth in the city’s water and electric systems, including the expansion of Columbia’s water treatment plant from 16 million gallons per day to 24 million gallons per day. A bond issue on the November ballot would double that capacity to 48 million gallons per day.
“He has brought a lot to the city,” City Manager Ray Beck said. “He did an excellent job managing the department and working together with the rest of the city staff. A lot of what he did was quite innovative.”
During Malon’s time as director, the number of electric customers in the city has doubled to more than 38,000. He has overseen the addition of a 4-million-gallon reservoir and pump station in south Columbia, along with the building and expansion of many substations. Malon said the rapid growth of the utilities has been quite a challenge, and he attributes much of his department’s accomplishments to the help of his staff.
“I’m proud of being a part of the Water and Light Department,” he said. “I think we’ve made a significant contribution. I am so proud of the people that I work with and work for. I don’t know how to find words to express it.”
In addition to managing Columbia’s water and electric utilities, Malon is also responsible for managing the Columbia Terminal short-line railroad, which was acquired during his tenure.
Growth isn’t the only challenge Malon has faced. During the Flood of ‘93, when the Missouri River threatened to inundate the city’s water treatment plant at McBaine, Malon took things into his own hands. In two days he led the creation of a levee system that protected the plant from the rising water. For a week and a half, people could only get to it by boat. The plant was the only one of its kind to survive the flood.
Malon, who was hired in 1979, said he was drawn to the community and its opportunities.
“He had some really good experience, and he looked like he would stay with the system for a reasonable amount of time,” Beck said. “Turns out he stayed for 24 years.”
Malon will continue his work until January. His major projects include informing voters of the Nov. 4 water-bond issue and overseeing construction of a new water operations building. He plans to remain in Columbia after retirement.
“I have places to go, things to do, golf games to play,” he said.