Some people are gifted. They can pick up any task, beat any challenge. Dave Ruehle, the Maintenance Director at Castle Farms, is one of those people. He came to the Castle in the fall of 2007, excited to work every day with his sister, Anora, then Assistant General Manager. While Anora moved up to General Manager and grew her team, Dave also expanded his team in the years to come, now employing 2 full time assistants.
“I’ve done maintenance all my life. Getting to do it here, in this historical location, is enjoyable. To be able to maintain a centerpiece of the community is great.”
Daily, you may see Dave walking from place to place, checking on equipment and systems. That surveying is an important part of his job. A few years back, he transitioned the department to a more preventative maintenance model. What does this mean? Simply put, Dave and his team fix the issue before it becomes a problem.
“If we do our job right, nobody even knows we’re here.”
That can be a tall order, considering the number of responsibilities he has. Along with the typical maintenance issues, Dave also handles help desk questions in-house and is a point person for our off-site computer company. He takes a turn driving the trams for historical tours and keeps them in good shape throughout the year.
Talk to Dave for long and you will learn that he is very passionate about his job. He expounds about lightbulbs and energy efficiency with enthusiasm generally reserved for leaders in that field. To call him a leader wouldn’t be far off. Besides lowering the Castle’s light bill and knowing exactly how long each bulb should last (he reports that the Gallery lights should last until 2023), he works hard to keep the Castle at the forefront of energy efficiency. In 2008, when he was tasked with lowering the electric bill, he changed about one quarter of the bulbs to CFL’s which were expected to last approximately 5 years. In 2013 LED lightbulbs became viable options and he and his team began the methodical exchange of bulbs throughout the property. As one area was changed over, the old bulbs from that area went to areas not yet upgraded, so no bulb was wasted. As exterior lights burnt out, they were updated to LEDs. Dave’s goal for the future is for people to be shocked when a bulb burns out.
“I could come back in 50 years and it’s very possible some of the bulbs we installed will still be going.”
One of the most interesting jobs for Dave was the management of the model railroad. When he started at the Castle there were only 6 trains. He designed a control system, a timer really, that would turn the trains on and off at set times during the day. The system worked really well; however, when the rail road expanded to 32 trains he needed a different solution. It presented itself to him not at work, but while enjoying a game night with friends. “I really hate dealing cards, so I wondered if I could build a dealing machine.” He looked into it and knew a micro-controller he found, an Arduino, had many possibilities. He and a coworker realized one day that an Arduino with wi-fi could be the perfect train controller. He found a new part that no one knew how to use and developed it. He went further and used it to create a system for automatically powering televisions and sound cabinets on and off. He could monitor the connected devices from any terminal. The term “internet of things” wasn’t around until 2013, but Dave was already using his knowledge and skills to make it a reality at the Castle long before then.
“For one and a half years, we were on the leading edge of developing technology for this part in the entire world.”
When not creating new technology or calculating viability of an upgrade to equipment, Dave loves to spend time with his wife of 12 years, Christina, and their two children, Blake, 11, and Savannah, 9. He likes to kayak on the Jordan River and even occasionally on Lake Michigan. Of course, he loves to program on the side.
When asked to share a difficulty of working in a 100 year old stone castle, Dave replied with humor:
“It’s really hard to hang a picture.”