Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Nov. 18, 2002

Winsted's Kenny Radtke one of nation's best garbage men

By Ryan Gueningsman

Not many people get to drive around town all day and get paid for it.

That is, unless you work for a company like Waste Management picking up garbage like Kenny Radtke has for over the past 17 years, including when it used to be Kubasch Sanitation.

Radtke recently took first prize in a competition among three of the major garbage packer companies for his driving and pick-up times.

There is much more to Radtke's job than "driving around town," though.

It involves getting up at the crack of dawn, hopping in a truck, and beginning the route.

"I started with Kevin Kubasch ­ I used to help him out when I was in school, and if there were holidays or days we didn't have school, I would be down there to help," Radtke said.

He eventually got into the sanitation business full-time throughout the summer months while he was in high school. Upon his graduation of high school from Holy Trinity in 1983, he took on full-time status with Kubasch Sanitation.

When Waste Management bought the company last year, Radtke kept on with his job, remaining one of Winsted's garbage collectors.

His boss, operations manager Michael Illg, received a call in early October from McNeilus, which is the company that Waste Management has make its garbage packers. The company representative told Illg about a contest that would be taking place.

"They were doing a test ­ putting their trucks up against other leading automated garbage trucks in the country," Illg said. "We had one of the first automated trucks, that had the sideloaders, that they had put out."

A truck with a sideloader allows for one person to pick up garbage, rather than two ­ one driving the truck, and the other on the back.

"A good truck and good driver can do 90-plus homes an hour," Illg said. "The truck makes up half, and the driver makes up half for the productivity."

McNeilus, which is headquartered in Dodge Center, invited Waste Management to pick a driver that knew the handling movements of the truck well enough to participate in this contest, and Waste Management picked Radtke.

Radtke flew to Chicago Sunday, Oct. 20 where he met with several representatives from McNeilus, and flew on to Chesapeake, Va.

"The next day, we had practice runs, and on Tuesday was when we went through the course," Radtke said. "They had the course set up, and it was kind of like two streets with cul-de-sacs on each end, which made it a little difficult."

It was on a timed basis, and also on a capacity basis. Radtke had the fastest time, just under 40 minutes, with the highest amount of stops being picked up.

"Each company had two trucks, so six trucks competed in the course," Radtke said. "I drove one, and the other guy representing McNeilus was from California."

After the competition was over with, the president of McNeilus flew from Minnesota on the companys private corporate jet to meet with Radtke and fly him back home on the private jet.

"The jet landed in Rochester, and they gave me a limousine ride back from Rochester to the Minneapolis -St. Paul Airport, so that was pretty cool," Radtke said.

"We have a star garbage driver right here in town," Illg said. "It shows that we're a national company, but we are still local. We are able to send local people to these competitions, and they can come back with their flags flying high ­ it's great."

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