Custodians reveal histories, workloads and wishes


Aaron Oechsner

Custodian Patricia Heinrich washes hand prints off of the Wehr Center doors.

Luke Ulatowski, Social Media Editor

Lakeland’s custodial staff holds a hard-working, but often elusive array of workers. While some hold great value in communicating with students, plenty has gone unsaid.

Custodian Patricia Heinrich has been with Lakeland for little more than a month. Handling the Wehr Center, her job primarily involves cleaning up after athletes. Outside of her custodial work, Heinrich works as a dietary cook for Plymouth Care Center and recently graduated from Lakeshore Technical College with an associate degree in accounting.

Custodial Lead Sue Ann Kohlmann has a much longer history with Lakeland.

“I used to work in Brotz,” Kohlmann said. “I’ve been here ten years. Now, I’ll lead, but I’m a floater, also. If somebody else is off in Brotz, I’ll go down and help there.”

Providing an example of her tendency to float, Kohlmann mentioned Campus Center housekeepers Wendy Scheibl and Paula Wilkinson, highlighting their odd work schedules.

“You might not even see them because they’re here at 3:30 in the morning, and if they’re off, I’ve got to fill their position,” Kohlmann said.

Kohlmann’s pre-Lakeland experiences were similar to her newer coworker’s current experiences. Before finding Lakeland, Kohlmann worked as both a cook and a part-time custodian for an elementary school. Going even further back, Kohlmann had different ideas for her future.

“My real plan was to be a nurse,” Kohlmann said. “But that didn’t happen.”

Asked what students can do to make a custodian’s job easier, Heinrich only had one tip, letting students off the hook immediately after.

“Recycling is a good one,” Heinrich said. “Other than that, students are pretty respectful. For the majority of them, there isn’t too much of a mess that I see. I see more from outsiders.”

Kohlmann, on the other hand, had several specific suggestions for students.

“The sports bags, when people get hurt and they wrap up their leg in water … Put it in the sink. Don’t put it in the garbage,” Kohlmann said. “We also have a lot of soda bottles that are not empty that they should dump out, then put in [the recycling bin]. You probably don’t realize how heavy that stuff is with all of that liquid in there.”

On Feb. 27, Heinrich’s fellow Wehr Custodian Paul Temme was awarded the J. Garland Schilcutt Award, which is annually given to a Lakeland graduate committed to “educating, mentoring and positively impacting young people” for his interactions with students.

While Temme declined to be interviewed, Heinrich voiced her thoughts on connecting with students as a custodian.

“I really don’t get to talk much to the students, but I wouldn’t mind saying ‘Hi,’” Heinrich said, “or seeing how they are or where they’re from and what they plan on doing for the rest of their lives.”

Kohlmann maintained that her position as Custodial Lead, which entails hiring students for both summer and school year work, could only be filled by someone well-connected with students.

“It was a position that was open and I was debating if I should take it,” Kohlmann said. “But everybody said, ‘Well, you would be good,’ because I try to communicate with students and help them out a little bit here and there.”

Beyond requirements for her position, Kohlmann also finds connections between custodians and students mutually beneficial when it comes to cleaning, noting that “if [custodians] talk with the students a little bit and communicate with them, they keep things neater.”

Asked about memorable experiences connecting with students over her ten-year career, Kohlmann shared advice she gave to an uneasy freshman years back.

“I said, ‘You don’t want to do what I’m doing, so get a good’” Kohlmann recounted before cutting her sentence short. “Not that I don’t enjoy it. You know. Someone’s gotta do it, right?”