In our modern world, we thank our lucky stars that there are people like Mark Nielsen. He has worked for the City of Ida Grove for nearly 31 years before retiring today. Nielsen has his license to manage a municipal sewer system. Nielsen has been through re-licensure 15 times. Nielsen came on board November 17th, 1986. Ivan O’Tool was mayor and the council included Earl Pfleeger, Herman Jensen, Lowell Bloenker, Earl Muckey, and Ronnie Powell.
Currently, there are four people on the city maintenance crew: 30-year water works manager, Lon Schluter; 24-year roads manager Gerrod Sholty; 5-year parks manager, Bob Lorenzen, parks manager; and 15-year Kris Taylor, who assists in areas as needed. The city is currently viewing applicants to fill the big hole left by veteran Nielsen.
“Jerry Frahm was the foreman at the time who hired me,” said Nielsen. “I started off with helping with water chores getting my water license in 1987 and then my sewer license in August of 1988.”
Nielsen has been no stranger to trials in his field. “In the sewage processor, the plastic sheets to separate the different forms of sewage will sometimes come off,” noted Nielsen. “Those sheets are used for rotating biological contact. When those sheets come off, they are full of slime. You have to handle them with vice-grips to control them.”
Nielsen has had the duty a time or two of turning off the water of a customer who ignored a nonpayment disconnect notice. “I knocked on the door to inform the resident that she could pay her bill to continue service,” stated Nielsen. “She didn’t answer the door, so I shut off the water. I was about a block away when I heard someone yelling for me. She was on her doorsteps, suds running from her hair to her face, waving her payment at me and hoping I’d turn the water back on.”
Overall, Nielsen – who has worked with four city clerks and five different mayors – agree that it’s been a memorable 30-plus years. “We have a good crew,” said Nielsen of the self-managed team. “Sure, we get complaints now and again, but one compliment wipes out a dozen complaints.”