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Dubuquer litter-ly enhances his neighborhood on a daily basis

Having more free time thanks to retirement, Bruce Rutz thought 'why not?' and started cleaning up 2 blocks on Central Avenue.

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Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013 12:00 am

"Hiya, Sarge."

It is a familiar refrain along the 1600 to 1800 blocks of Central Avenue, where Bruce Rutz can be spotted each morning, trash bag in hand, cleaning up the neighborhood. Most residents and business owners in the area know him well enough to call out a personal greeting.

Rutz, whose nickname harks back to his years in the military, is a 30-year resident of the Central Avenue neighborhood.

When he completed his career as a U.S. Postal Service carrier in December, Rutz decided to use his newfound free time to clean up along Central Avenue between 16th and 18th Streets.

"I've always cleaned around my building. Last spring after the weather broke, I thought, "Well, to help the neighbors out, I'll do the whole block. Just as a courtesy,'" he said.

Rutz got a tool for picking up cigarette butts, trash, cans, food wrappers, chicken bones and more along the sidewalks and curbs.

"If it's not growing, doesn't belong there, it gets picked up," he said.

Rutz typically leaves his apartment mid-morning, depending on the weather conditions, and works for an hour or two on weekdays or a couple of hours on the weekends.

"I just work at my own pace," said Rutz, who said he keeps at it until the area is as clean as possible.

Likening his work to any resident cleaning up their yards, Rutz said it is a concept he practiced during his years of military service.

"You get up every morning, it still might be dark, and every company has an area of responsibility. You get shoulder-to-shoulder. You pick up everything, and in not that much time, the whole place is spotless," he said.

Since launching his Central Avenue effort, Rutz has perfected his work enough to be able to pick up items as small as a matchstick. Many of the business owners and employees in the area have expressed their appreciation.

"It's awesome. I think we need more people like Sarge around," said Cody Ahlers, who works at Exxtreme Pub. "We love it. We appreciate it, I tell him every time I see him. Any morning you drive by, you see him out there, early."

Rutz said he has found some strange things in the course of his neighborhood cleaning effort, but he would rather not elaborate on them. He confessed he does get irritated sometimes when he sees people littering the areas he's cleaned, but mostly he is resigned to knowing "it's gonna happen."

"People make a mess. A lot of them forget somebody's got to clean it up," Rutz said.

Jim Mihalakis, a neighborhood resident and friend of Rutz, appreciates the effort.

"He is doing the city a great service, picking up all the cigarette butts and trash, especially in front of the bars," said Mihalakis, who said the improvement to the neighborhood after Rutz cleans is "unbelievable."

"He's a great personality, an all-around great guy," Mihalakis said.

Rutz said he isn't looking for accolades and is just doing "the right thing." He said he will keep at it until he moves or "my legs give out."

"I had some extra time. I figured, let's keep everybody happy, keep everything clean," he said.

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