Built for Service
Kenan Stratman Enjoys His Roles as Public Works Director and Assistant City Engineer
Have you often wondered how some of the infrastructure in your beloved city is taken care of? Have you wondered who works on keeping the streets paved and potholes filled? Who manages the maintenance for our award-winning parks? And what about our common buildings and community centers – they don’t just magically stay kept up, do they? None of these things are possible without a team of professionals, and at the helm of the department dedicated to these types of projects is Kenan Stratman, the director of Public Works for the City of St. Matthews.
Originally from the South End of Louisville, Stratman attended St. Denis Elementary and Saint Xavier High School. He landed at the University of Kentucky intent on going into the medical field like his mother, a retired nurse. However, when the time came to declare a major, Stratman felt a pull towards engineering. When asked why, he says he felt he could help more people by learning how to make infrastructure such as roads and buildings safer. Armed with his mathematical prowess and T-square, Stratman graduated in 2002 and went on to work with the engineering firm HDR for 15 years.
While at HDR, Stratman was involved with many projects and clients, including the City of St. Matthews, who hired the firm to help with revitalization and infrastructure improvement projects.
As Mayor Richard Tonini became the mayor of St. Matthews, he saw a need for a Public Works department. Having worked with Stratman on various municipal projects, Tonini brought him on as director of Public Works.
Given St. Matthews’ broad and varied boundaries, spanning more than four miles, the list of responsibilities for Stratman’s department is long.
Stratman and his department oversee the various needs of the public structures and green spaces within St. Matthews. The department is also involved with the city’s infrastructure including roads and parking lots. Stratman’s team is instrumental in the upkeep of storm sewers, working closely with the Metropolitan Sewer District to ensure sewers are structurally sound and comply with the federal and local guidelines.
Brown Park, designed by a firm in Boston, is often the site of fun gatherings, trick-or-treating, Christmas light displays and more. There are also Warwick and Draut parks, and Stratman and his team are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of each park including pavilions, picnic areas, playgrounds and ball fields.
Did you know there is a beautiful walking trail behind Ten Pin Strike & Spare? Have you noticed any changes at the local playgrounds? In recent years, Stratman’s department has been able to bring play areas into closer compliance with regulations related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing better access and more fun for those who have a difficult time with noncompliant structures and terrain. These areas can be found at Brown and Community parks.
St. Matthews is also home to Trinity Stadium, adjacent to Trinity High School. Recently Stratman had a hand in the field’s redesign to make it a bit more user-friendly. Community Park fields are also utilized by many locals.
Stratman says at many of these parks, he was able to have permanent restroom facilities built, adding curb appeal and creating a better environment for St. Matthews citizens and others who utilize the parks and playgrounds. Stratman was instrumental in making the Community Park ball field parking lot safer and more accessible.
Stratman is also responsible for the upkeep of City Hall. The building is currently being renovated, including parking lot repairs and expansion of the Police Department’s space on the first floor.
Public Works is also responsible for the building that houses the Eline Library, which has one of the highest book circulations in the Louisville Free Public Library system. At this time, Stratman and his team are working on the library’s expansion.
When asked what other projects might be on his plate in the coming months, Stratman says the list is always in flux as needs and budget changes arise. He says he’d like to see more improvements at Brown Park, permanent restrooms at Warwick Park, and renovations at the the St. Matthews Community Center.
One might think that Stratman, as director of Public Works, would have a messy office with blueprints strewn about, and pencils and tools scattered everywhere. Not so. Stratman likes order and transparency. While there may be a few invoices and reports typically sitting on his desk, he maintains a rather clean environment – a modest office that holds a desk, built-in bookshelf, table for conferences, and rack that holds plans and various rolled-up informational documents. Upon the bookshelf are books transported from the University of Kentucky alongside a stack of historic plans from when the City of St. Matthews was developed.
Stratman is quick to point out that he can’t do any of his work as Public Works director without two key people and his crew of about 15. This includes Terry Ridgeway, Public Works supervisor, who has been in St. Matthews for more than 30 years and who Stratman calls the heart and soul of the department. His other go-to person is Jim Birch, city engineer, who has also been around the city for 30 years.
While there is always something to renovate, repurpose or reinvigorate in the Public Works department, Stratman is happy to come home to his wife of 15 years and two children, aged 10 and 4. He unwinds by coaching football, basketball and soccer, and is involved with his church, often serving as a planner and running its fish fry fundraiser.
Next time you go out to Brown Park and feed the ducks or hit that home run at the playground, think of Stratman and his group, and all the hard work they put into your city to make it a bit greener, a bit prettier and a bit more safe.