Ready for new things

STEVE ZEMCIK poses next to a stop sign Thursday on the corner of Exchange and Park streets in Owosso. After 28 years, Zemcik is retiring from the Shiawassee County Road Commission board later this month.

OWOSSO — Steve Zemcik has filled many roles in his nearly 80 years.

Actually, that’s probably underselling it a bit.

Among his many roles: A stint in the U.S. Army, owing several gas stations in the Owosso area, and working as a reserve police officer.

But perhaps his best-known job — or at least, one of his longest-tenured — was serving on the Shiawassee County Road Commission for the past 28 years.

That will come to an end later this month when Zemcik, 79, retires from the road commission after completing his fourth term.

“It’s time to quit,” Zemcik said Thursday. “My last meeting will be Dec. 20, which is my birthday. I’m going to be 80 years old and it’s time to hang it up.

“I’ve done about every other thing.”

Born in Detroit in 1938, his family moved to a farm in the Owosso area in 1945. After graduating from St. Paul High School, he served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960, where he was stationed in Germany.

When Zemcik returned, he took a job with Chevrolet in Flint, but didn’t like the commute. He held various jobs with Stechschulte Gas and Oil and Midland-Ross, winding up in the engineering lab at the latter.

“In the back of my mind, I always wanted to be in the repair business,” Zemcik said, “repair cars and that kind of stuff.”

So, that’s what he did.

Zemcik left Midland-Ross and took over a gas station on North Washington Street in Owosso for about five years. Standard Oil then approached him about running a gas station on East Main Street and he did so for about six months.

Then Standard also asked him to take over what is now the Shell station at the corner of Chipman and Main streets.

In all, he spent 29 years with Standard Oil before leaving the gas station business in 1989. He started his own refuse business and operated it for eight years before selling to Waste Management.

It was during his time in the garbage handling arena he decided to become involved in the road commission. At the urging of former county board commissioner Barb Clatterbaugh — whose husband Jim Clatterbaugh was a probate judge in Shiawassee County — Zemcik ran for the road commission in 1990.

Despite some reservations — Zemcik said he didn’t know “diddly about roads” at the time — he attended a couple meetings and made the choice to test the political waters.

“I said what the heck, (I’ll) find out what it’s about and I decided to run for that position,” Zemcik recalled.

Running as a Democrat, Zemcik defeated Glenn Williams in his first election, with 55 percent of the vote. In his most recent election in 2012, Zemcik defeated Republican Jerry Gutting 54.4 percent to 45.27 percent to win his fourth term.

“He’s been a part of a lot of things for a lot of years,” Shiawassee County Road Commission Board Chairman Mike Constine said. “I do want to thank him for all his years of service.”

Road Commission Managing Director Brent Friess also expressed gratitude for Zemcik’s service.

Zemcik said his interactions with people were his favorite part of serving on the board.

“I’m a people person,” he said “Everything I’ve done all my life is with people. I like that aspect.”

Among his favorite highlights was serving for a time as the president of the board’s Seven-County Council, which meets with officials from neighboring counties to discuss various topics. Zemcik was also the Shiawassee County Road Commission’s board chairman several times.

“That’s kind of fulfilling because you’re accomplishing something,” he said.

Now, it’s on to other things.

Zemcik is married to his second wife Kathleen. His first wife, Patricia, passed away in 2007. He has three children — Michelle Barnes, Steve Zemcik Jr. and Julie McDermed — and seven grandchildren.

Zemcik said Kathleen is very active with hospice and was also involved in jail ministry — areas he said may pique his interest.

“I’m not going to lay down and take a nap or watch TV all day,” he said. “I’ll still be active — what, exactly, I don’t know.”

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