Ticket to retirement
Duluth parking enforcement officer Deb Kozlowski remembers one of the funniest excuses she's ever heard from a driver hoping to avoid a ticket. As she approached a car in the Civic Center, prepared to write an expired-meter ticket, the car's owne...
Duluth parking enforcement officer Deb Kozlowski remembers one of the funniest excuses she's ever heard from a driver hoping to avoid a ticket.
As she approached a car in the Civic Center, prepared to write an expired-meter ticket, the car's owner approached and said: "I couldn't put a quarter in this meter. I'm a compulsive gambler. It's like playing a slot machine."
"He was serious," Kozlowski said. "I said, 'Well, you just took a gamble on whether you were getting a ticket or not, and here you are,' " and she handed him a ticket.
Then there was a bank president whom she issued a ticket for expired license-plate tabs, but only after she said he flashed her a middle digit. Kozlowski said the bank president was a friend of the Duluth police chief at the time, and she was called in to see the chief and one of the department lieutenants. She was told that the bank president denied her version of events.
"I told the chief exactly what the bank president did. I said, 'How could I even make up something like this?' The chief said something like, 'Well, Deb. He's the president of the bank.'
"I said, 'I don't care who he is. I'm the meter monitor.' "
And there you have the attitude that Kozlowski has carried on the job enforcing the parking laws of Duluth since she took the job on April 19, 1976.
Kozlowski is retiring today as the longest-serving parking enforcement officer in city history.
"Anyone who can write parking tickets in our climate and deal with the verbal abuse from folks day in and day out deserves a long, healthy retirement," Duluth police Chief Gordon Ramsay said. "We will miss Deb dearly, as will some of the downtown parking scofflaws."
Duluth police Lt. Ed Moroney was Kozlowski's supervisor for 10 years when he led the traffic bureau. He estimated that she wrote between 90 and 100 parking tickets a day during her career. That means she would have made someone unhappy a total of about 750,000 times -- but it also meant a lot of money in the city's pocket.
When she started, parking tickets were $2 apiece. Now they're $12.
"It's a thankless, difficult job," Moroney said, "and she did it really well."
Kozlowski grew up in the Woodland neighborhood and is a 1972 graduate of Duluth Cathedral High School. She plans to do more golfing and biking in retirement and take some trips with her boyfriend, who is an over-the-road trucker.
A reporter accompanied Kozlowski on her rounds Thursday. She had a ticket processed and under the windshield wiper of a vehicle within 30 seconds of spotting an expired meter. As she ticketed a truck on Third Avenue West just up the hill from Superior Street, she admitted it was owned by someone she considers a friend -- Ed Barbo, owner of Barbo's Columbia Clothing.
She said she had given Barbo a break on an expired meter a couple of weeks ago.
Reached later Thursday by phone, Ed Barbo gave his opinion of how Kozlowski performed her job in downtown Duluth.
Kozlowski was a little rugged with the public when she first started, Barbo said, but she "has come a long ways over the years. She has really acclimated to a tough job and has handled it in a professional way."
The clothier was then told he had just received a parking ticket from Kozlowski.
His disappointment was audible, but he acknowledged getting a recent break from Kozlowski and added: "I didn't deserve it this time. I wish her the very best."