Winter leaves 43-year legacy as Gordon’s Public Works Director

Winter leaves 43-year legacy as Gordon’s Public Works Director

By Lauren Brant

After 43 years of service to the Gordon community, Mike Winter decided it was time to retire so he can spend more time with his family. Mike’s wife Barb Winter said she is looking forward to having freedom to take spur of the moment trips with the destination determined by throwing dart at a map.

Winter grew up in Rushville and worked in construction during the summer and at the packing plant in the winter. He later married Barb Winter and they have stayed in the community where Mike dedicated 43 years to the City of Gordon.

Winter served the City of Gordon as the Public Works Director, where he was given opportunities to see the community evolve alongside coworkers who worked together to grow the city’s services.

When he first came to Gordon, Winter took a job temporarily with his first day in June 1974. “I was working at a place that had to shut down for a period of time, so I was looking for something temporarily,” said Winter. “I started here, and I’ve never had the time to go look for a real job.”

Over the course of his service, Winter has seen the population decline, the city provide more services and a drop in community amenities. As Winter began his job in Gordon, he recalled that there was no ball field, although there used to be one where the American Legion and Shopko buildings stand today. Shortly after he started, Fairview Park was built. Kiwanis, McCarthy, and Moore fields followed. After construction concluded on the ball fields by the rodeo grounds, Winter recalled building a dirt street for public access. City personnel began building the street in the mid-1980s with Winter the one on the grader, shaping it. Ahead of his departure, the Gordon City Council recognized his service by renaming that street to Winter Dr. “Yeah that surprised me,” said Winter. “I was impressed that they thought that much of me to do that.”

He was also involved in the water project and lagoon expansion in 1981 and then again in 2014 when the city built the new well field. He recalled when the city park was leveled in 1981. “We removed every tree and started out with bare ground,” said Winter. Ten years later, the city did the downtown improvement project where a contractor installed new water mains and poured new sidewalks before the city personnel planted trees.

During his tenure, he has worked for six city managers and three city clerks. He has also acquired more responsibilities. “I started on the water department and then they realized I had heavy equipment experience, so they put me on the street department,” said Winter. “Shortly after getting onto the street department – just about a few months – the superintendent quit, and they put me in that position.”

In 1981, he was handed the cemetery, parks, and sanitation departments. He was also named the utilities director in 2004 after the person fulfilling that role quit. That position was supposed to be temporary, but Winter took on those responsibilities for the city until his final day.

One of Winter’s favorite job duties was plowing snow off the city streets in a road grader. The grader has no radio and the cab area is noisy, so Winter would sing. “One day a gentleman called me. Apparently, my phone didn’t hang up and I go back to plowing snow. He’s listening to me sing to myself and that day it was Jingle Bells.”

As mother nature blew in another winter snowstorm, Winter hopped up into the motor grader for his last trip on Thursday, March 29 where he sang Jingle Bells. “As much as he grumbled, he really did like to do it,” said Barb Winter. “He always made sure the public was taken care of.”

To recognize his dedication to the city, Barb Winter and City Clerk Kim Buchan organized a retirement party in the city building on Friday, March 30 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. “I knew there was no way we were ever going to talk him into a sit down fancy dinner, so this was more about giving people a chance to thank him and wish him well,” said Buchan.

Prior to working four decades with the city, Winter worked for a brief time at a packing plant and in construction. He also worked with his father, who was a house mover, and his uncle doing dirt work while he was in junior high.

Dan Bishop will serve as Gordon’s next Public Works Director. Bishop has worked for the city for 19 years in the Public Works Department. Winter said, “it wasn’t too long after Dan started to work here that I felt that he would be a good replacement.”

As Winter hands over his responsibilities and begins his retirement, his wisdom will provide city personnel with a solid foundation for success. “He needs to realize that the people he has trained to take his place absolutely listened to everything he said and valued his opinion,” said Buchan. “We’re going to be fine and he just needs to enjoy his family.”

Reflecting on his time with the city, Winter is grateful for having the opportunity to live and work in Gordon for all those years. His fondest memories were working with his colleagues. Winter’s last day was April 1 and he left knowing that the city has an opportunity as they have quality people on staff.

“I’ve enjoyed it. Now I’ve got time to go look for something permanent.”

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