COLUMBIA — Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine is ready to retire after working for Columbia for 32 years.
St. Romaine, 57, told City Manager Mike Matthes about a month ago that he was planning to retire and gave his official notice last week at a meeting of city department heads.
“In 32 years, I have seen a lot of changes in the city,” St. Romaine said.
When he started working for the city in 1984, Columbia’s population was around 69,000. Now, the population has grown to be around 120,000.
In 1987, when he was working in the procurement office, Ronald Reagan visited Columbia.
“I remember the biggest concern was trying to put signs on the store vacancies along Broadway," he said. “And then you turn the clock forward almost 20 years, and we have one of the busiest downtowns.”
He began his civic career as a procurement officer. He graduated from the Law Enforcement Training Institute at MU in 1987 and became a reserve police officer. On top of his full-time job, he worked for the Columbia Police Department a couple times a week and went on ride-alongs.
While he enjoyed police work, "I decided that my ultimate goal was to work in administration in a fairly high level,” he said.
He went back to school, earning a bachelor of science degree in business and finance from Columbia College in 1995. He added a master's degree in public administration from MU in 2000, the same year he became the head of the city’s purchasing department.
In 2006, St. Romaine became assistant city manager and was promoted to deputy city manager five years later.
St. Romaine said that Dec. 14 would be his last day as the deputy city manager. He said he wanted to retire before Christmas, but there were a lot of issues later on in the year that he wanted to stick around for.
A new data management software program he's been working on for the last three years, called Enterprise Resource Planning, is set to launch on Oct. 1.
He also wanted to help resolve the budget, especially at a time when the city is facing a shortage of police officers and firefighters.
St. Romaine said he would miss his work turning conflict into consensus when he leaves.
"What I’ve enjoyed most is being a part of the conversation,” he said.
"He’s been an integral part of the management team for years,” said Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, who has worked with St. Romaine since 2005. "He has a lot of institutional knowledge and will certainly be missed.”
St. Romaine said he would help out his wife with her real estate business in his retirement. “We’ll certainly see if that is enough or if other opportunities arise in the future.”
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