Local leaders recall first jobs

For those who may have missed my column last month, this article is a continuation in a two-part series on jobs—past and present. It also features some of our well-known Marion County per­sonalities.

In the Dec. 6 article, Mar­ty Fred­rick­son, director of Marion City streets and also building inspector, said his boss genetically engineered a blue hamster.

In this column, our three Marion County commissioners, Kent Becker, Randy Dallke and Dianne Novak, all agreed to talk about their unique jobs or circumstance.

Roger Holter, Marion city administrator, also agreed to contribute.

When interviewing the commissioners, the main thing I noticed was how much fun they seemed to be having by either listening to one another about what job the other had or vice-versa.

The other thing I noticed was how each person had a lesson or two they learned from either a person in authority or someone who was a relative and doubling as a mentor.

For Holter it was his grandfather, who taught him that “something worth doing should be done with pride for all to see.”

Holter said that he was like so many other people in that he had two “first” jobs.

“It was the first time I got paid, and also the first W-2 form job. But, both paid me far more in life experiences than I received in income.”

Holter talked about his “staunch little first generation German immigrant grandfather, Os­car Carl Handel.” His grandfather hired him to mow the lawn.

“I was over the top excited to have a paying job, and as I mowed back and forth, I had hundreds of dreams on how I would spend the money,” Holter said.

But, there was just one problem, and that was his grandfather made him redo the job three times before getting paid.

“In my haste and dreaming, I had missed strips of grass and failed to finish it with pride,” he said.

Holter added that his grandfather told him to do the job to the best of his ability and someone would eventually notice.

Another one of those life lessons.

Holter said his most unusual job was done before computers and computer-managed inventory.

“I got hired to be the exhaust pipe inventory guy for a large automotive warehouse,” he said. “Every day, I counted the entire warehouse inventory, which included thousands of exhaust pipes for automobiles and light trucks.”

The first seven hours was spent counting the pipes, which became a sound like an “out of tune” church bell ringing.

Then, he said, he would write the orders by hand, and then a mad dash to the post office to mail them to the manufacturer in Nash­ville, Tenn.

“The pay was very good for the time, probably based on the working conditions.

The first lesson learned, Holter said, is that we’ve got to be self-starters and accountable to ourselves.

“The second was more profound…don’t touch frozen pipes with exposed skin of any type,” he added.

In recent weeks, the commissioners have had a hard go of it. Without faulting anybody, there just hasn’t been much finesse.

Which brings me to a lesson I learned early on in life.

An exceptional woman who cared enough to teach me some life lessons told me something I will never forget. The lesson centers around the “main reason why” people will quit a job.

Most people don’t leave a job because of their inability to learn it, but rather their inability to get along with others.

As for our commissioners and their jobs, last month I said one of them had seven jobs. Any idea which commissioner had seven jobs in one year? Those who guessed Kent Becker were correct.

Becker said he spent a half year at the Dolly Madison plant in Emporia cleaning flood-damaged property from one of their other plants in the eastern U.S. Becker said he was 19 and a college student.

“All the equipment from that (eastern) factory was sent to the Dolly Madison factory in Emporia to reclean it,” he said. “The reason we got the equipment here was because the plant out east had to rebuild their other plants.”

Becker said he couldn’t remember all his other jobs, but she did remember working for a roofer until the owner went broke.

“I also worked for a person who owned gas plants all over eastern Kansas,” Becker said. “I would drive around maintaining those plants by mowing them or picking up trash around them.”

Most of the other jobs during those college years, have been forgotten, he said.

Can anyone guess which commissioner owned an auto parts store and drag racing repair shop at 26 years old, or which commissioner shoveled manure on a hog farm?

The answer will appear in the Feb. 7 issue.

Patty Decker writes news and features for the Free Press. you can reach her at patty@hillsborofreepress.com