Yoder’s three decades with city matched Kalona’s major growth

By Mary Zielinski
Posted 12/24/98

He really never planned on staying. When a 21-year old Dave Yoder arrived in Kalona from Oklahoma, he started “working in construction,” then “got hired to do street work for the city, starting …

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Yoder’s three decades with city matched Kalona’s major growth


He really never planned on staying. When a 21-year old Dave Yoder arrived in Kalona from Oklahoma, he started “working in construction,” then “got hired to do street work for the city, starting January 1, 1968.”

Then, “I went on to water. To tell the truth, I never planned on being here that long.”

The “that long” turned into 31 years and a front-row seat to watching the major development of Washington County’s second largest town.

Officially, he retires December 31, but city officials honored him at a reception Monday, December 21, presenting him with an engraved clock.

When he was hired by Mayor George Fry, he became one of just two full-time city employees. The city clerk position, held by H.V. Beck was part-time, the city hall was housed in a former blacksmith shop and the city had “no paved streets to speak of,” and no sewer and water system.


During his first year, “the water and sewer lines were put in,” replacing septic systems and wells and Yoder began what would be three decades of “working with water.”

No one was ever more grateful for the new water tower and water plant that was installed in the 1980s.

“That made such an improvement,” Yoder said, recalling how “with the old plant I just about lived down there.”

The water improvements were an extension of what had started happening in Kalona by the start of the 1970s.

“There were more homes, more businesses,” he said, noting “when I came the population was just about l,000. I never expected to see it more than double. Of course, I had no idea I would be here for 30 years, either.”

When the city moved from its original quarters on B Ave. to the remodeled community center, probably no one was happier than Yoder.

Ceiling fell

In the process, the city had built a maintenance building on A Ave. which meant Yoder and his fellow city workers no longer “had to worry about the roof falling in.”

He wasn’t joking. The back part of the then city hall (which also encompassed the adjoining former fire station) “was not good. In fact, one day I was sitting there, working at the desk when a block of the ceiling just let go and came down all over everything.”

There were problems at ground level, too.

“We had to dig out the floor in order to get the maintainer into the building. Then, we had to put it all back when the city sold the building.”

Today’s city hall and community center were still the Mid-Prairie Junior High School when Yoder arrived. During the 1970s the building became the new home for the public library and the start of the city’s recreation program under Mayor Richard Adams.

Time capsules

During Adams’ administration, Yoder buried the first of Kalona’s two time capsules in the city park. The 1976 one “was for the bicentennial,” and three years later “the one was for the Kalona centennial. You know, it would be interesting to dig them up and see how accurate we were about where we were going.”

He expects he will see one of them “since it was for 50 years. The other is for 100.”

When Mayor Adams shot and killed his wife in August, 1976—in what is the first and only murder to ever happen in Kalona—Yoder was on vacation.

“When we were called, I just could not believe it.”

The crime gave Kalona its only woman mayor, Elda Way, who as a council member was Mayor Pro Tempore.

She was followed by Cleo Troyer who as a council member and mayor would log the longest record of elected public service in Kalona. In the process, Troyer and Yoder “worked together a long time.”

Any bad memories?

“Yes,” he said, referring again to water.

“It was when we had the waste water problems,” he said, explaining that the system was not big enough to handle the town.

“That went on until 1983,” when the new system and plant came into existence.

During his three decades with the city, Yoder also has seen streets paved (“there was very little here when I came, just some in the downtown”), city services expand, including the creation of a full-time parks and recreation director, building of a swimming pool and the hiring of a city administrator.

The swimming pool came during the administration of Richard (Tony) Hancock who also was instrumental in moving to the city administrator position.

What also kept Yoder in Kalona was the mobile home park that he started in 1968. Sold a few years ago, it is now the Meadow Brook Mobile Home Park.

“I just got involved in Kalona,” he said.

Will he continue to be?

“Oh yes,” noting that he will be available to the city “if they need me,” but not as any kind of regular employee.

How about a part-time job?

“I already have had many job offers,” he said. “But we plan on doing traveling.”

In fact, next month he and his wife, Mary, will head for Florida, and later in the year a trip to Alaska is planned.

Why Alaska?

“We went there on a cruise and saw it from the water. Now, I really want to see it from the inland. It’s very beautiful.”

He and his wife have a farm acreage just west of Kalona where Yoder still has a number of exotics such as emus and llamas.

“That’s one of the problems. I have to have somebody to take care of them when we go.”

Asked if the city would be hiring a replacement for Yoder, City Administrator Doug Morgan said “I plan to fill in for a while. We have not advertised it yet.”

Then he paused, “I doubt we really can replace him.”