If anyone at Alexandria Public Works is ever confused about the city’s Christmas decorations – where they are stored or what decoration goes on which street – they can ask John Stanz for help.

“It’s like he has the blueprint in his mind,” said Dane Bosl, Alexandria Public Works director. “He knows where all the decorations are and where they need to go. He has kept the decorations alive for many years.”

Known as “Mr. Christmas” throughout the department, Stanz had his hand in helping to put up the city’s decorations for the last time this past week. After 37 years of working as a maintenance operator for the City of Alexandria, Stanz is retiring. His last official day is Friday, Dec. 6.

As somewhat of a last hurrah to his longtime career and his love of the city’s Christmas decorations, Stanz will be flipping the switch at the annual Christmas in the Fort Lighting Ceremony Friday, Nov. 29. (For more on the ceremony, see related story.)

As the crowd counts down “3 … 2 … 1,” Stanz will pull the lever and like magic, downtown Alexandria will light up, signaling the start of yet another holiday season.

Bringing a smile

A 1971 Alexandria graduate, Stanz began his career with the city’s street department division of Public Works on Dec. 1, 1982.

According to Bosl, Stanz comes to work every day with a smile on his face, he is always busy and everyone likes him.

“I’ve never heard any complaints from others about having to work with him,” said Bosl. “He is invested.”

Bosl said when it comes to the city’s Christmas decorations, Stanz is the expert. The plastic reindeer decorations that hang on 3rd Avenue are old and will sometimes break. Bosl said Stanz is always there ready to fix them. About eight years ago, he remembers the garland had to be rewrapped and that Stanz took charge and made sure the rewrapping got done.

“John just always has a great attitude,” said Bosl.

Stanz loves the Christmas decorations that sparkle and twinkle throughout the downtown area and often hears from people how beautiful they are.

He knows that some of them are old and were purchased back in the 1950s, so he likes to do his part when they need work.

“I love a challenge,” Stanz said. “If we plug something in and doesn’t work, I like the challenge of trying to make it work. Or if something breaks, I like to try and solder it back together. I want to keep them around.”

Lots of variety

Working for the Public Works department has given Stanz the opportunity to do a variety of things, from snow removal to painting projects and from blacktop repair to sign work. There is always something going on.

“And the town just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “That’s what makes it fun.”

Because of the growth in the city, Stanz said over the years there have been more parades. And with the additional parades comes the added work of putting out barricades to block the streets.

But no matter what needs to be done, Stanz loves his job, the variety of tasks and being able to be out and about in the community.

One thing he may not love as much, however, is the snow. He remembers some pretty big snowstorms and the long hours trying to get all the snow removed from the city streets. He probably won’t miss the phone calls that would come at 2 or 3 a.m. when heavy snow blanketed the town.

The things he will miss are all of the people he has worked with over the years, and being out in the public.

“I am really going to miss the people here who I work with,” Stanz said. “But it will be fun to take the winter off.”