A new man is in charge of the Wapakoneta Electric Department and he hopes to be a positive influence.
Wapakoneta Mayor Rodney Metz announced Monday longtime employee Donnie Schnarre as the new Electric Department superintendent, replacing Bill Lambert, who retired Aug. 31 after 32 years with the department. The mayor made the announcement during Monday’s Wapakoneta City Council meeting.
“I think Donnie will do a very nice job as the new electric superintendent and he has many years with the department so he knows the system well,” Metz said. “I think he will be a very good fit for the department. He is a fine individual, he’s willing to learn and he wants to grow in his career.”
Schnarre, who was present during Monday’s meeting, was available for inquiries by councilors. He started in his new position Sept. 1.
“I was surprised and a little overwhelmed when they told me I would succeed Bill Lambert,” Schnarre told the Wapakoneta Daily News after Monday’s meeting. “I have been looking forward to the chance and hoping to get the opportunity to advance in the department for the past couple of years as Bill was getting closer to retirement.”
Schnarre said the biggest challenge at present is finishing the upgrade to the distribution system and completing the Defiance Street Substation replacement project.
“At this point in time, I want to keep everything running as it has in the past,” Schnarre said. “We have been working hard in rebuilding the entire system and we have a lot of work to do, but we should be down to just general maintenance once the system is rebuilt and everything is done.”
The city recently spent $13 million to replace and upgrade four of the city’s substations as well as to replace transformers and poles throughout the corporation limits.The city started with the Middle Street Substation and should complete the three-year project next summer with the replacement of the Defiance Street Substation.
Schnarre and other candidates were interviewed by Metz, Safety-Service Director Bill Rains and Councilor-at-large and Utilities Committee Chair Steve Walter and Pat Hire of Clemans-Nelson & Associates of Lima.
Metz said he has a lot of respect for Lambert, who he knew through his work on council and as a local electrician.
“He really cared about the electric distribution system and the city,” Metz said. “He was a very dedicated employee and really cared about what he was doing. He loved his job and what he was doing.”
Rains said the city will miss Lambert’s expertise.
“Bill had an intimate knowledge of the city’s electric distribution system,” Rains said. “He is certainly a reason why have the reliability we have in the electric distribution system today.
“Mr. Lambert was instrumental in driving the upgrades we made forward — from the electric substations to the overall distribution system,” he said. “He was very instrumental in overseeing the city’s electric system through some very monumental changes and challenges.”
Lambert, who helped with upgrading the system, also served as the superintendent when an ice storm in January 2005 interrupted power to the city. His crews had lines replaced and ready when a main line feeding the city was finally back into service.
Lambert, who was hired Sept. 4, 1979 as a lineman, was named Wapakoneta Electric Department superintendent on March 1, 1998, by for former Mayor Don Wittwer. He replaced Lewis “Louie” Knoch.
Rains said Lambert’s reputation in the state influenced his decision to accept the position as Wapakoneta safety-service director.
“When the opportunity presented itself to me to take this job, one of the reasons I accepted was Mr. Lambert was the Electric Department superintendent,” Rains said. “He was well known in the electrical community, with AMP-Ohio and through working with mutual aid for other communities.”