By Chris Umscheid
SOLON– There’s a couple of new faces being seen around town these days in the service of the city and its citizens. Jerry McAtee and Tim Stull joined the ranks of the Public Works Department in July, with McAtee coming aboard on July 1 while Stull started on the fifteenth.
A self-described lifer, McAtee is a Solon native through and through. His official title is that of a water and wastewater utilities specialist. Stull is a transplant, having been born and raised in Belle Plaine before living in West Branch and eventually putting down roots in Solon.
After 27 years of working for the City of Coralville, McAtee decided it was time for a change. When the position opened in Solon, it was a no-brainer. “Now I get to work where I live.” McAtee lives in Solon with wife Kris and two of his three children. Lillee is a sophomore at Solon High School while James is a freshman. Their oldest daughter Samantha is a student at the University of Northern Iowa.
Stull comes from a factory/warehouse background, but also worked for the City of West Branch’s Public Works Department as well as in a similar role for the City of Ely. During his time in a summer temp position in Solon, Stull said he built up a good working relationship with the staff. That paid off when the fulltime position opened up and he took it. Stull lives in Solon with wife Lisa and they have two adult children, Jessica and Nick.
“It’s something different everyday,” Stull said about his job, and why he enjoys it so much. “One day I could be working in the park, then swinging a shovel or putting up a sign. There’s always something to do to make Solon look a little better.” The variety of the job appeals to Stull, as does being able to see the results of his efforts. “You can see the difference,” Stull said.
McAtee said he enjoys, “…keeping everything flowing and making everybody smile.” A typical day for him could involve installing/replacing water meters, maintaining the city wells and pumps plus some lab work as he checks and balances iron content in the drinking water as well as fluoride and chlorine levels. “It’s just taking care of where you live,” McAtee said. “It’s making sure everybody has clean water to drink.”
Neither man is a stranger to caring about and helping their community. Both have previously served as volunteer firefighters with Stull a West Branch veteran and McAtee having been a member of the Solon Fire Department. Just like a firefighter has to undergo training to earn certification, so too do public works employees. The men hold certifications in water treatment and water distribution. Continuing education is a requirement with 30 hours of training required over a two-year period to renew their certificates. In addition to keeping up with ever changing regulations from both the state and federal level, there is also the latest in technology to contend with.
It wasn’t very long ago somebody from the department would have to walk house-to-house to read water meters. Now, a radio transmitter broadcasts that data to a hand-held scanner as an employee drives down the block.
On a more daily basis, the men find themselves trying to not only keep up with ever the changing needs of Solon, but also trying to stay ahead of them when possible through constant prioritizing.
“Solon is a good place to put down roots,” Stull said, echoing the words on the door of their big orange dump truck.