By SCOTT AUST
GARDEN CITY – Thursday was designated “Melinda Hitz Day” in Garden City, a tribute to the longtime Finance Director who retired after more than 30 years overseeing the City’s financial health.
Hitz began working for the City on April 22, 1991. After graduating from Fort Hays State University with a bachelor’s degree in business and an emphasis in accounting, Hitz went to work for Lewis, Hooper and Dick in 1979.
From 1981 to 1990, Hitz performed the annual municipal audit of the City of Garden City making her well familiar with the city’s finances, and things she wanted to improve, when she then started working for the City in 1991.
Hitz and her husband Bob, a local general contractor who will also be retiring soon, have two adult children, Kristen Schultz and Jack Hitz, and two grandchildren, Mack and Hallie.
The Hitzes plan to stay in Garden City after they retire with many extended trips to see their kids and grandchildren in Colorado.
“We do have a trip planned in June, over to Europe for about three weeks. It’s kind of my retirement present,” she said. “We’re getting on a river cruise for seven days, then traveling around for two weeks. We’re really excited about that.”
Garden City is Hitz’ hometown. She said her father, Carl McNaught, was a longtime salesman for Nolan Schreiber Motors so he knew everybody in southwest Kansas. Her brother Richie McNaught, and her sister Marsha Golay also still live here.
City finance has changed a lot in 30 years. Hitz said it’s gone from a main frame computer to everyone has a one on their desks, and from in person meter reading to automated meter reading. Customer service has also improved over time, allowing people today to do much of their utility bill paying electronically online.
Dealing with Covid has also had an impact on how the office operates. Hitz said people used to be required to come to the office in person to set up service, but now all that can be done online.
“Even though we hated that we had to close down, it sure made us look at our services and what we could change and make better for the citizens,” she said.
One thing Hitz takes great pride in is earning for the past 25 years in a row the national Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, the highest award in financial reporting.
“The reason I’m really proud of that is when we go to sell (general obligation) bonds for the city, having that designation with Moody’s really helps get bidders on our bonds and a lower interest rate. We’ve saved a lot of money over the years from that,” she said.
When asked what she’ll miss after retiring, Hitz said she’ll miss the people.
“When you work with people nine hours a day, they get to be your family. You get to watch their kids grow up. I’ve really enjoyed that. It’s really family oriented in this organization,” she said.
On the other hand, Hitz said with a chuckle, she won’t miss dealing with the annual implementation of new governmental accounting standards.
“I’m going to miss the citizens. We issue all the checks to vendors. We bill all the customers through utility billing, so there’s a lot of foot traffic in here. A lot of people I’ve known since I grew up here. I’ll miss them.”