NTO maintenance man adds fun to his job

George H. W. Bush New Tech Odessa's maintenance services' Rome Kleck stands for a portrait after an interview about his selection as the Ector County Independent School District's 2021 Maintenance Employee of the Year Wednesday in the school. (Jacob Ford|Odessa American)

Henry “Rome” Kleck enjoys being the life of the party. The maintenance man at George H.W. New Tech Odessa, Kleck started working for the district 22 years ago after giving up his own landscaping business.

That was 22 years ago. Kleck had to learn on the job, but he loves it and recently, he was recognized as ECISD Maintenance Employee of the Year.

“There was an opening to go to work at ECSD. I believe it was back in 1989, 1990 and I took it. I started out in the yard at the administration building,” Kleck said.

His landscaping business is what he said got him into his job with the district.

Kleck has worked at a variety of campuses.

“I went to Permian (High School) for a long time. I took care of the grounds there. Then all of a sudden, there was an opportunity to go into doing maintenance at Bonham Junior High School working for James Ramage, which I already knew how to do that. … It was kind of exciting. My first day there by myself, an air conditioner on fire,” he said.

The school was evacuated, the fire department showed up.

“I put up the ladder just in time for one of the firemen to climb up there on top of the school. I’ve actually been through a couple of fires,” Kleck said.

Kleck said the reason he likes the job so much is there’s always something different going on.

“You’ve got to do electrical work. I do A/C work. I do plumbing. I’m not hip on plumbing, but I can do it. … I’ve had a lot of people help me learn this stuff so I, you know, you know, there’s the people that maintenance like the electricians and the plumbers and stuff like that. I wouldn’t have ever been able to do this job if it wasn’t for them. The locksmith; they come out here. If you want to learn to do it, they really want you to learn to do it,” Kleck said.

In addition to having fun learning the various trades, Kleck said he’s met a lot of great people.

“I’m thankful to work … for some really good principals. (Principal) Mr. (Gerardo) Ramirez is really an excellent principal to work for. He’s a lot of fun. I don’t think he was ready for a maintenance man that will pretty much say anything, just come out of left field, but I give him a laugh every now and then,” he added.

For his part, Ramirez said Kleck is a great staff member.

“He really keeps our spirits high here. … That comes first, and second, he takes care of everything else that needs to be taken care of, so I really appreciate what he’s brought to our culture here. We enjoy working with him. (He’s) just an excellent, excellent employee; excellent staff member,” Ramirez said.

Along with Ramirez, Kleck said he also enjoyed working with Ramage and Steve Brown, a former Permian principal who is now serving as school board secretary.

“… I always knew where I stood with him,” Kleck said.

Of garnering the award, Kleck said he didn’t think he would ever win it so he was a little bit surprised.

“Sometimes my mouth runs a little bit too far away from me. I kind of keep everybody on their toes. … There’s a lot of people over there that are, I’m sure, more deserving … It was nice honor,” he said.

Ramirez said even though Kleck is a maintenance man at NTO, he’s often asked for his help because he’s so knowledgeable.

Originally from Odessa, Kleck is an Odessa High School graduate. His wife is Kay Kleck.

Irene Nunez, office manager at NTO, said Kleck’s award was well deserved.

“He is just at the top of his game. He is one that you can go to. He’ll get the job done,” Nunez said.

Nunez conceded that Kleck likes to give her a hard time.

She added that he participates in all the theme Fridays. He dresses up as Dr. Seuss’ Thing One and Thing Two. He dresses up as rock and roll musicians.

“He’s a lot of fun. He will come early in the morning just to say hi. Do we need anything? … He lets us know what he’s got going on for the day. But if we need anything, just to let him know and he may not do it at the time that we call him, but he will get it done. Period,” Nunez said.