Steve Lumpkin started his career with Modesto more than 39 years ago as a part-time worker cleaning the bathrooms, picking up trash, and mowing and edging the lawns at three city parks.
He retires Friday as acting director of the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department after a career that included time as a tree trimmer, tree-trimming crew leader, parks maintenance supervisor, and parks manager overseeing the city’s 75 parks and their roughly 800 acres along with the maintenance of all of the city’s buildings. That’s just a partial list of the city jobs he has filled.
“It seems like I’ve been here my whole life,” Lumpkin said. “I will miss the city. I have a lot of friends and relationships. It’s like a second family. Yeah, I’ll miss it. But on the other hand, I’m ready to do something different.”
He actually retired in December, but the city kept him on to run the department after Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Director Julie Hannon left to take a job with another city. A city report from December said Lumpkin, 61, would not be paid more than $58,723. State pension rules prevent him from working much longer.
His retirement comes as Modesto is undergoing a reorganization that is expected to take effect July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Much of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods will move to other departments. For instance, the community forestry program is moving to the Public Works Department.
Modesto has brought in three management consultants from Municipal Resource Group to help run Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods for a few months at a cost not to exceed $47,600. Human Resources Director Joe Lopez said a decision has not been made yet on who will replace Lumpkin.
Lumpkin combines the ability to make sure city employees provide value for taxpayers while caring about employees, said Kelly Gallagher, Modesto’s acting operations manager for parks, community forestry and building services. He said Lumpkin – who meets about once a month with rank-and-file employees – takes an interest in city workers because he remembers his roots.
“He hasn’t forgotten where he started,” said Gallagher, who has known Lumpkin for 13 years.
Lumpkin joins the growing list of top managers who have left the city. City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood left in November and City Manager Greg Nyhoff’s last day is Friday, though he has been on vacation for a couple of weeks. Nyhoff is leaving to become city manager of Oxnard in Southern California. Jim Holgersson, a retired city manager, is Modesto’s interim city manager.
Lumpkin was born in Oregon, where his father worked as a tree feller as part of a logging crew. The family moved to Modesto when Lumpkin was in the third grade to be near his paternal grandmother. He started with Modesto as a part-timer March 16, 1975, and was responsible for Graceada, Enslen and Elk parks. A year later, he was hired full time to operate the chipper as part of a tree-trimming cleanup crew.
Retirement will give Lumpkin more time to spend with his wife, Patsy, their two adult children and two grandchildren. He and his wife also will have more time to devote to their church, Landmark Tabernacle in Atwater, and for travel.
“My wife and I are leaving June 1 for an Alaskan cruise,” he said. “My last day is Friday, and Sunday we leave for Alaska.”