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Elkader Mayor Josh Pope presents an aerial photo of the town to outgoing Public Works Director Jerry Gamm.

By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Writer


After more than two decades with the City of Elkader, Public Works Director Jerry Gamm retired last Friday.  Gamm joined the department in 1994 and became its head around 2002.  During that time, Gamm and his co-workers have been involved with everything from filling potholes on city streets to fighting numerous floods and cleaning up the aftermath.

“Flooding, especially the one in 2008, is always one of our biggest challenges,” he said.  “You have to coordinate with other departments such as police and fire.  We have had great working relationships with those departments.  Our main purpose is trying to protect people and property.  Unfortunately, we have all had plenty of experience doing that kind of work.”

During the 2008 flood, those departments and hundreds of volunteers fought a losing battle to save residences on the southwest side of the town.  While they were filling sandbags and building a wall to try and stem the rampaging waters, the sandbag dike burst and about 40 homes, including Gamm’s home, were flooded.

“Cleaning up after a flood, both for the city and personally is very, very demanding,” he said.  “There’s also a lot of paperwork involved, especially when working with FEMA.”

The City shop, which houses city vehicles and equipment, is at least 150 years old.  There is a photo in the shop that was taken in the late 1860s that clearly shows the building.  Currently, the city council is discussing options for building a new shop.

“Being city maintenance, our job is to keep the town functioning,” Gamm said.  “The problem is our aging infrastructure and aging city buildings.  However, the city council has always been good about updating our maintenance equipment.  We now have a lot of information stored on our computers, which helps a lot.  It’s a dance trying to stay within the budget and still perform your duties properly.”

Besides working full time for the city, Gamm was an Elkader EMT for 35 years until he retired from that organization in 2012.  He is also a member of the Elkader Volunteer Fire Department, which he joined 26 years ago.

“I will miss some things, but I will not miss others,” said Gamm, speaking about his retirement.  “I definitely will not miss getting up at two or three in the morning to plow snow. However, for the most part I have enjoyed my work here, and I think most people think that we do a good job.  I might take it easy for a couple of weeks, but I plan to do some remodeling on our home down the road.  I also plan to get back into fishing.”

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