Tom Rogers, former Janesville assistant city manager, dies at age 71

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Elliot Hughes
August 11, 2015

JANESVILLE -- Tom Rogers, a 27-year public servant for the city of Janesville remembered for being a natural leader who loved local government, died Sunday. He was 71.

Rogers served as the city's director of public works from 1979 to 1987, when he was promoted to assistant city manager, a position he held until his retirement in 2007. His wife, Harriet, said heart failure was the cause of death.

Funeral arrangements are pending with the Schneider Funeral Home in Janesville.

"The first day I met Tom--he picked me up at the airport--it was clear to me he was an exceptional individual, both as a professional and as a human being,” said former City Manager Steve Sheiffer, who began that job in 1987. He promoted Rogers to assistant city manager after two months of knowing him.

Sheiffer said Rogers served the city at a time when it “experienced a very significant growth on the east side” and credited Rogers with building the infrastructure to handle it.

Rogers helped turn a number of city project ideas into reality. Among others, they include construction of the Youth Sports Complex, Janesville's landfill, the Highway 11 bypass, the Janesville Transit System's Transfer Center, the Police Services Building and renovation of the Senior Center.

A framed collage of photos of Rogers standing at the sites of various projects he helped get off the ground sits in a planning conference room in City Hall.

“He got great, great satisfaction out of his job,” Harriet Rogers said.

Rogers was born in Steubenville, Ohio, but attended high school in Miami, Florida, where he met Harriet. She said the two attended different universities but stayed in touch by letter for four years before marrying in 1967. They had three children together.

Rogers received bachelor's degrees in history and political science as well as a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He worked as a planner and director of public works for Johnson City, Tennessee, for six years before moving to Janesville.

Those who worked with him described him as an outgoing, tough and fair coworker with a “disarming” Tennessean drawl and barbecue skill.

“His passion for work, he had the same passion for life,” said City Assessor Richard Haviza. “His family was just so important to him. He cared about all of us here (at City Hall)."

Rogers had a penchant for remembering minute details. “This number can't be right” was a phrase everyone who worked for him heard, said Operations Director John Whitcomb.

“He had a steel-trap memory,” said Planning Services Manager Duane Cherek. “He demanded the best out of city staff and just by his presence made you work hard. That sticks with you for rest of your working career.”

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