City of Ottawa, Kansas
Travis Reekie

Overachiever Awards: 'The Jack-of-All-Makes' Travis Reekie

Dec. 18, 2023
Kansas farmboy turned city superhero: It's a familiar fictional tale, but for technician Travis Reekie, it's his day-to-day job.

Overachievers drive everyone else to try a little harder and pay a little bit more attention to detail. In an industry where mistakes can cost lives, they are nothing short of indispensable. That’s why we created the Fleet Maintenance Overachiever Awards as a recognition program to remind everyone of that fact and to honor everyone in the industry who does their job the right way because it’s the right thing to do.

After putting out a call for nominations, we received dozens of submissions, which were reviewed by our judging panel. In our eyes, Travis Reekie's ability to handle any and all municipal fleet vehicles for the City of Ottawa, Kansas, and then going home to fix and maintain the ag equipment at his 300-acre farm, has earned him the title of 'Jack-of-All-Makes.' Here's his story: 

Travis Reekie | “The Jack-of-All-Makes”
Technician | City of Ottawa, Kansas

It doesn’t get more middle America than Ottawa, Kansas, a rural town of about 12,000 about 50 miles south of Topeka and Kansas City. This Smallville-esque town even has its very own Superman, a versatile technician named Travis Reekie, who has been responsible for maintaining the city’s municipal fleet of 280+ vehicles for the last five years. These range from the police department’s Chevy Tahoes and Ford Interceptors to bigger fire trucks and road graders.

His supervisor Chris Raby is in the shop, too, but meetings and paperwork account for half of his time. That leaves the 34-year-old Reekie largely responsible for keeping the city’s vehicles on the road. And with such a wide variety of makes and models, there’s no telling what Reekie’s day might look like.

“Travis has to go from installing an engine to rebuilding a hydraulic cylinder to rebuilding a pump in a fire truck,” said Raby, who added the technician must keep up on diesel and gas engines as well as various hydraulics and electrical systems.

Reekie started working on farm equipment after graduating from high school and was certified to work on John Deere equipment at Fort Scott Community College.

He came in with a solid knowledge base in diesel and credits Raby with training him on gas engines. Diagnosing and resolving fault codes is mostly learning on the fly, though Reekie said he and Raby take online classes and attend local training or head up to Kansas City “as much as possible.” With a two-man operation, though, that’s not always an option.

That means Reekie has to have equal amounts of grit and strategy to get the job done. Going from troubleshooting a Ford to a General Motors vehicle right after can be difficult, he said. “Knowing who to call” from the OEMs helps him manage.

Prioritizing, while also challenging, is his primary duty to help the city operations run smoothly. “Public safety equipment comes first, though if there’s a snowstorm, snowplows come first,” Reekie explained.

If you think Reekie would have his fill of work changing brakes and troubleshooting trucks all day, you haven’t met his alter ego, a mild-mannered farmer who grows corn and soy beans, raises cows, and spends time with his two kids and expectant wife. This, too, is not easy but not unachievable for an overachiever like Reekie.

“Dry years are never good—and this year was not a good year for us,” he said, “but we’ll manage in the end.”

About the Author

John Hitch | Editor-in-chief, Fleet Maintenance

John Hitch is the editor-in-chief of Fleet Maintenance, where his mission is to provide maintenance management and technicians with the the latest information on the tools and strategies to keep their fleets' commercial vehicles moving.

He is based out of Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in the B2B journalism space for more than a decade.

Hitch was previously senior editor for FleetOwner, and covers everything related to trucking and commercial vehicle equipment, including breaking news, the latest trends and best practices. He previously wrote about manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest.

Prior to that he was editor for Kent State University's student magazine, The Burr, and a freelancer for Cleveland Magazine. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician, where he served honorably aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723).

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