WILLISTON, N.D. – A former oil industry manager who was laid off earlier this year is enjoying a perk of his new job with the U.S. Postal Service – less stress.
At 57, Pat Ritzke is starting a new career as a mail carrier he was laid off in February along with thousands of other North Dakota workers due to a slowdown in oil activity.
With the U.S. Postal Service still aggressively hiring in northwest North Dakota to catch up with the region’s growth, Ritzke was back to work in Williston by April.
“I never really considered leaving because there’s so many job opportunities here,” he said.
Most jobs Ritzke applied for were not oil-related because he was ready to get away from the stress after 33 years in the industry. Most recently, he held a management position with Halliburton with 70 employees below him.
“It’s 24/7. You’ve got crews out every day of the week. And anything can happen,” Ritzke said. “I hate to say it, but there’s times when your phone rings and you swear at it.”
Ritzke, a New Rockford native and North Dakota State University graduate, spent more than 20 years working in the field before moving to management, primarily performing perforating services, which uses explosive charges to make holes in the well casing to prepare the well for hydraulic fracturing.
He worked in Williston from 1986 to 1997 before getting transferred to other areas of the country. Ritzke eventually wanted to retire in North Dakota, so in 2010 he volunteered to leave Rock Springs, Wyo., and come back to the Bakken.
During his time in the oil business, Ritzke has seen a lot of up and down cycles – including having to lay off some workers – so he knew losing his job was always a possibility.
Compared to other workers who were laid off as oil prices fell, Ritzke said he had an advantage because he already owned his Williston home and didn’t have to worry about paying high rent prices.
Ritzke took a significant pay cut leaving the oil industry. But he’s already in a career position that includes benefits with the Postal Service, a move that happens more quickly in Williston because of the demand for postal workers.
His route – which includes his own house – is mostly residential and requires 44 blocks of walking.
“I enjoy getting out. Once you’re out on your route, you’re on your own just moving along,” Ritzke said. “It’s peaceful.”
Even though Ritzke sometimes works six days a week when the Williston post office is short-staffed, he’s grateful he now gets Sundays off. And his phone?
“It’s pretty quiet,” he said.