The city’s inventive tourism guide — who ran ghost tours at Halloween and worked on festivals all year — has been laid off.
Maureen Gebert, who had worked for the city for more than a decade, is so dedicated that she asked permission to finish one last job after she was sent home.
This year’s Ghost Tours are in full swing, and she didn’t want to disappoint the people who had signed up for it.
“I asked them if I could do it. I couldn’t do it on my own because I don’t have [liability] insurance,” she said.
So the city agreed to hire her part-time for the tours. She had developed a tour of the city’s historic Stockade, along with gruesome tales of murder and mayhem from the city’s history.
Her program will be the last tourism event that the city is involved with for a long time.
Director of Development Richard Purga said he’s taken over Gebert’s most important duties. Everything else will be set aside.
“I will not be picking up any of the tours and festivals,” he said.
That means the city won’t be involved in those, unless someone volunteers to organize city efforts. Gebert planned programs to go along with the topics at the various festivals and tours in the city.
Purga said Gebert’s layoff was quite a loss. He’s not sure how he’ll get along without her.
“I don’t know, to tell the truth,” he said. “Of course it’s a loss. But budgetary concerns come into play.”
Gebert said she was shocked by the layoff, but decided to retire since she is eligible to do so. She’s not at full retirement age — age 66 — and she doesn’t quite have 20 years on the job, so her state pension will be reduced.
“I actually planned to work beyond age 66. It just caught me unawares,” she said.
But she said she’ll be fine. Her husband works as an attorney in the public defenders’ office and she will also collect Social Security and a small pension.
“I know a lot of people who are devastated,” she said of layoffs. “I’m disappointed but not devastated.”
In fact, as she got used to the idea, she said she’s actually not upset at all.
“I feel like I’ve been given a gift of a few extra years of retirement. I’m healthy. I can do whatever I want,” she said. “Believe me, I am so happy. But I would’ve stayed later.”
She looked at the rain coming down in buckets on Friday and added, “At least I don’t have to go out in the rain.”
Then she remembered the Ghost Tours. And so she started her retirement by standing in the rain.
Her salary was $47,519. With benefits, the total cost to the city was about $71,000.