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BUILDING BLOCKS

Building Blocks: Street superintendent treats community like family in career

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Dale Pfeifle

Dale Pfeifle, Street Superintendent for Rapid City.

Unknowingly, Dale Pfeifle has stayed connected to his late father during his adult life.

Pfeifle, Rapid City's Street Superintendent, keeps in touch with his father's teachings through working with equipment, keeping hot rods, motorcycles and tools engraved with his father's initials. He also carries his father's dedication to work.

"He was a great guy," Pfeifle said. "He was one of those old German gentlemen that all he knew was work. Well, I shouldn't say that that way, he loved to go out and he loved to fish."

Pfeifle's father Elmer was a mechanic for two dealerships in Timberlake, about 35 miles north of Eagle Butte. He taught Pfeifle about equipment, how to put a car together, how to take care of a motorcycle (his first came at age 9), paying attention to details, responsibilities and much, much more.

Pfeifle said his dad had a couple hot rods back in the day, including a couple of Studebaker Golden Hawks and Silver Hawks.

"All four of us boys had hot rod cars that he would work on for us and help us with," he said. "We all grew up helping him in the shop working on things."

When Pfeifle was 16, Elmer let him pull the transmission out of his car and put the clutch in backwards. When it didn't work, his dad asked him if he thought he did something wrong. They took out the transmission and pulled it back apart. Elmer pointed out the wrongdoing.

"I said, 'You sat here and watched me.' 'You won't do that again, will you?' my dad replied," said Pfeifle. "Well, yeah."

The history with hot rods led to Pfeifle having a hot rod himself, a '79 Camaro that he sold to a colleague in the street department. He still has the hood ornament from Elmer's '57 Chevy and about a third of his tools. Now, he has a Street Glide he takes out that helps him take a break.

Pfeifle wasn't always drawn to the street department. But when his own son was born, things changed. He was working construction when he would stop by the street department three times a week or so to ask for an open position.

"Finally the superintendent at that time, Jimmy Hilton was his name, said, 'Well, you're here all the time, (why don't) you just start work,'" Pfeifle said. "I've run equipment forever, that was no challenge. I love running equipment."

While Pfeifle has only been the Street Superintendent for about five years, he has been with the department for about 36. He said he still tries to learn something new every day. He said so far the greatest lesson he's learned in his job is patience, whether it be treating roads or anything else.

"Take baby steps, make sure you get it because you want to do it right the first time, you don't want to overspend, you don't want to over-commit yourself to something," Pfeifle said. "I don't like it when I spend my own money, and I sure don't do it when I spend the city's money." 

Pfeifle said he always looks for innovation, recycling materials and utilizing what they have in the department.

— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at siandhara.bonnet@rapidcityjournal.com

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