A Prominent Team Member for the CITY Office for 30+ Years
With over 100 years in business, CITY has thrived because of loyal, committed employees. For over three decades, there has been one presence in the CITY office that has helped maintain the highest level of customer service. Rhonda Kerns is the voice that continues to answer thousands of calls and has nearly touched all of CITY’s entire customer base throughout her 30+ years of service.
“It’s crazy to think how much we have grown,” Rhonda said. “To know that you are part of that is very special.”
Rhonda had worked at CITY during the 1970s but returned permanently in 1987 and has been in the same position ever since. She handles CITY’s new accounts, makes sure all customer data is up to date and helps with customers. Together with her colleagues in the office, she makes sure CITY customers have a good experience top to bottom.
“I like the variety,” Rhonda said.” It’s not just the same old same old every day and I am working with different salespeople or their supervisors. We set up their accounts, get their uniforms or products ordered and get everything ready for the scheduled delivery, it’s a lot of fun.”
Ken Schnor, CITY’s Director of Service, has worked with Rhonda for over two decades. Being responsible for CITY’s promise of going the extra mile for all customers, he knows how important it is to have someone in the office who cares as much about the customers as he does.
“It’s easy to work with her because she knows the way I work,” Ken said. “She is thinking ahead and makes my job a lot easier. Very rarely do we have different opinions on the same thing.”
Ken interacts with Rhonda on a daily basis. Sometimes, he says, he calls her multiple times to ask for any information he might need. Rhonda will frequently prepare reports on different accounts for Ken so that he has all the information ahead of time. Ken admires Rhonda’s ability to identify problems and then work diligently to gather any details that could help CITY.
“She’s really detailed oriented and she really likes to take all of the gray, not the black, not the white but the gray, out of the scenario,” Ken said. “Rhonda is just such a good source of knowledge and she really knows the ins and outs of the business.”
Rhonda is originally from Eastern Iowa and grew up not too far from Oelwein in Sumner, Iowa. She graduated high school in 1975 and has been in the area ever since. CITY has always been part of her life and she enjoys having been able to stay in the area and work close to her hometown.
“I like the routine,” Rhonda said. “It’s probably old fashioned but we have stability here. I know where I am going every day and I am five minutes from home. I am not very good with change, so this has been perfect for me.”
The company has also become a family affair for Rhonda. Her husband Mike is one of CITY’s Route Service Representatives [RSR] and services businesses across Eastern Iowa. She enjoys having her husband at the same company but says she doesn’t try to nit-pick too much. When you ask her if she likes working with her husband her response is simple: “For the most part,” she laughs.
Rhonda cares deeply for CITY’s RSRs, not just because of her husband but because they feel like family. Tim Nuss has been an RSR with CITY for over 20 years. He knows Rhonda well and credits her with his success on the road.
“She is our go-to girl,” Tim said. “Everything you want, everything you need she always gets it done the right way. If you ask her to do something, you know it’s going to be done right.”
For Rhonda, it’s important CITY’s RSR’s know they can rely on her to support them.
“You work with all of these people and some of them I worked with had been here for 30 to 40 years before they retired,” Rhonda said. “I have worked with our RSRs for a long time and you get to know them personally, when they head out in the morning and there is a snowstorm or it’s foggy, I let them know and hope they are safe.”
Rhonda loves the atmosphere at CITY. In 30 years, she says everyone here is like family no matter how long they have been with the company. She always makes an effort to meet new people and introduce herself to the ones that just started. To her, it’s all part of continuing a legacy built on trust and a belief in family values.
“Mike and I have two Yorkies and all the office staff knows we’ve got dogs,” Rhonda said. “People ask about what we are doing and how our dogs are it’s just really personal. I like the familiarity and the comfort everyone here brings.”
Mark Ballo is CITY’s Des Moines Regional Manager and has spent 40 years with the company. Rhonda and Mark have worked together for over three decades and for Mark it’s important to know he can rely on Rhonda no matter what.
“If you ask Rhonda to do something, you know that it’s going to get done and it’s going to be done correctly,” Mark said. “She can prevent a lot of things from happening before they actually become problems and that’s because she knows the business and has experience.”
In three decades of working for CITY, Rhonda has many memories of her time with the company. As with many other CITY employees, who were part of the company at that time, one event sticks out. In 1993 the company suffered a devastating fire, destroying the whole plant and leaving many people wondering what would happen next. Rhonda remembers going downtown and watching the building burn.
“I still kind of get that sick feeling in my stomach and I remember thinking, I don’t think we’re going to work tomorrow,” Rhonda said.
Her sister was the office manager at the time, and both knew what it would take to get back up and running. But because Roger Wetlaufer was determined to continue working, company leadership set up an office the next morning and everyone did their job. Rhonda also remembers an office supply company randomly dropping by and leaving calculators, pens and paper without even asking for payment.
“They were just there,” Rhonda said. “It was truly the power of the people, everybody came together and helped us out. We never missed a complete day of work.”
Today, Rhonda is proud to be part of a thriving company that has made a difference in her life and for communities across the region. Rhonda and Mike enjoy camping and exploring the area. Almost every weekend from April into October, you can find both of them on the campgrounds of Eastern Iowa. Whether it’s spending time with her actual family or her work family, for Rhonda it doesn’t make a difference because she cares regardless.
“I wouldn’t know what to do without her,” Tim said. “She keeps all of us going and I am grateful for it.”