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Meet Middletown's Meter Monitor

When Fred Kesten, patroller of the city's parking spots, writes you a ticket, it's not personal, it's just his job.

Meet Fred Kesten. You may not know him by name but you know who he is. He works for the Middletown Parking Authority — writing tickets to motorists whose meter has run out.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Kesten moved to Middletown in the 1940s with his family and settled down in Long River Village. He attended Hubbard School on Silver Street, Eckersley-Hall School and Woodrow Wilson High School. His class of 1956 was the last class to graduate from the old Hunting Hill Avenue School, now the Woodrow Wilson Apartments.

In 1956, he joined the Army and was fortunate enough to serve his three years between wars, training in Georgia and then doing some of his service in Louisiana. While serving in the South, he had his first taste of racism and segregation and found it pretty disdainful.

Kesten came back to Middletown and met his wife Maria when they both worked at the Goodyear Rubber Company on Church and Hamlin streets. They married in 1952 and had three children, Lisa, Tim and Karen, who are all grown up now and living on their own. They'll be celebrating 50 years of marriage this summer.

During their married life, they lived in a little house on Frisbee Street for a few years, but spent the bulk of their lives in a ranch in Middlefield on Main Street. They moved back to Middletown when the kids grew up and left them empty nesters.

Kesten spent most of his career working at Pratt & Whitney as a bench mechanic. With his wife working as a hairdresser, they made a comfortable living. He decided in 2002 to take the severance package offered to him, and settled down to relax for the rest of his life. Things didn’t quite turn out as he planned.

"Retirement was boring and not good for me," Kesten said. So he took a half-time job with the City of Middletown’s Parking Authority. He worked for a while in the booths at the two parking lots owned by the city until they became automated last year. Now he spends the bulk of his time writing tickets to overtime parkers.

Kesten puts up with a lot of abuse. Everyone who gets a ticket argues with him if he is still nearby. He deals with people parked on sidewalks, in no-parking zones, and in handicap spots.

Yet, he stays calm, and his outlook remains rosy. “Mostly, people are decent,” Kesten explained. If the ticketholder gets particularly rude, Kesten says, "I make a point of walking away instead of getting angry."

Kesten likes his job. When it is sunny and pleasant, being outside is glorious, he says. He likes his job less when it is raining and gets a lot of exercise by walking from one end of Main Street to another, over to Broad Street and the city lots there, and down the side streets with meters.

Kesten shared some importnat parking secrets:

  • Just because there is a ticket on your windshield doesn’t mean you can’t get another ticket. In two or three hours, he can give you another one. And he keeps track.
  • If you leave a note that the meter is broken … it better be. He’ll use a quarter to check it. The good news is that if the meter is broken, you won’t get a ticket.
  • Those meter-less parking spaces are not necessarily free. If you park there for more than three hours, you’ll get a ticket.
  • The new meters that take credit cards are coming soon.

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Jeb Nocmather April 19, 2011 at 12:29 PM
Fred can be seen here working "Real Hard" on his second donut at the donut shop. Walking up and down Main Street all day can take a lot out of you.
jerry garvin April 19, 2011 at 12:46 PM
I played little league ball with Fred. We also went to high school together at W.W.H.S. The other day I parked on Main St. and put some money in the meter. I then started to walk up Main and and ran in to Fred passing out tickets. We exchanged a few memories and I went about my business. So did Fred. By the time he got to my truck the dime I put in the meter ran out. Thanks Fred!
jerry garvin April 19, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Just in case someone thinks he let me off, let me add " $10.00, priceless"
Fred Kesten April 19, 2011 at 11:08 PM
I'm not sure if Jeb has the right person in mind but I haven't had a donut in thirty years and I sure would not be walking down main street eating a donut while working. I would like to thank Liz Warner for a nice article and I would like to add Marie and I were married in 1962 not 1952. Your friendly meter monitor, Fred
Karen K April 20, 2011 at 01:05 AM
THAT'S MY DAD!! My father is the most honest and hard-working man I know. I remember him getting up at the crack of dawn every day to go to work, not missing a single day in years. It wasn't until I grew up that I realized he did it all for his family, making sure we had the best education & opportunities to pursue all our dreams. He taught us what it means to have a good work ethic and truly lives what he preaches. I can never thank him enough for all that he has done for me - I love you Daddy! Karen (By the way, he is telling the truth about not having a donut in thirty years - get the facts straight Jeb!)
Elizabeth Warner April 20, 2011 at 11:32 AM
Readers: Fred really is a lovable guy! And he is doing his job, just like the rest of us. If you don't pay the meter, expect a ticket. Life really is that simple. Believe me, I've paid about 15 of them in the past 4 months. I never once thought of blaming Fred. I do, however, wait anxiously for the meters that take credit cards. Cash is a tough commodity.
Lisa April 22, 2011 at 11:17 PM
Ditto!
helen hajjar April 22, 2011 at 11:28 PM
Fred Kesten is my younger Brother and really, is the most dependable, honest, trustworthy and conscious person the City of Middletown has ever had. If they only knew him personally - he loves his job and believe it not, Fred has the greatest personality and suits the job well. Fred can imitate Jerry Lewis to a "T"! He's truly a funny, funny guy when he's at a party or with his family. Don't get me wrong, he has his moody moments, but above all, there's no one like him and I just love my Brother! If you need someone to depend on, Fred is always there and has always been there, not only for me but for his family and friends. Even though it is not the best job in the world, Fred takes it very seriously. There will never be a "fixing of tickets" with Fred! He probably would even give one to his own family if he had to! He's there in every kind of weather, hot or cold, snow or rain - never missing a day! As for the donuts - he would never eat on the job and Karen is right, he's never ever eaten one in over thirty years - he's just as strict about his food as he is about his work. Other than that, I know exactly when we moved to Middletown as it was on November 13, 1941! A good move for the entire family!
Walter Pietruska April 25, 2011 at 12:43 AM
Fred and our lives parallel each other. I met Fred when we both took a course on Radio Repair in a shop on Grand Street in the early 60's. I was in the military from 1956 to 1960. I purchased a house in Middlefield and his son Tim and my son Scott became the best of friends. When he was collecting at the parking lot I would always say hello. His daughter Lisa lives in Durham, close to us, and we know her too. And often when we go out to eat on the weekend we bump into Fred and Maria. Fred is in good shape and I doubt that eats donuts. This article is well written. I found it when I was on the Middletown Press site and I was impress by the article compared to what I was reading in the press. They should hire Liz. Walter (Mr P) Walter
Paul Edward October 13, 2012 at 11:44 AM
His nick name in town is the Meter Nazi. Just saying, don't shoot the messenger.
April October 13, 2012 at 11:49 AM
thats why so many people complain about still having a minute left and are walking to the meter to put more change in and still have to pay the ticket because he already started to write it right?? I've personally seen this happen too many times to count... or someone doesn't have change and goes to get some and is coming back with it (happened to me on court street). i understand he has a job to do, but when you see someone walking to their vehicle or to put money in the meter is it necessary to be a jerk about it? i was getting in my car to leaveand my time had not yet expired and got YELLED at by him.to move my car now if i wasn't putting more money in... i still had time and was putting my seatbelt on while warming up my car... it was totally uncalled for... you may all be his family and what not, but on the street he is known as the parking Nazi! with good reason. he doesn't walk away, he yells at people and is often time extremely rude even when you are trying to be nice about it. i understand rules are rules but to sit at a meter with a ticket written out as the seconds to it expiring go down is messed up and wrong especially when the person is coming.back and say "wait im right here" and the response is too late i already write it out... if i still have a second left then i should NOT have a ticket already period!

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