Rolfes comfortable in new role in Akron

Former water/wastewater operator now serving as city administrator

Dan Rolfes is a familiar face in the small community of Akron, Iowa.

“I was born and raised here, and I’ve never worked anywhere else but in town,” Rolfes said.

After graduating from Akron-Westfield in 1995, he attended Wayne State College for one year. He then worked for a local chemical and fertilizer business before joining the crew at the Farmers Cooperative Company.

In 2007, he became the city’s water/wastewater superintendent–a position that was close to home in more ways than one.

“I was a second-generation water and wastewater operator,” he said. “My dad did it for twenty-one years, and then I served for ten.”

These days, you can still spot him in city hall, but you’ll find him in a different office.

Rolfes took over as city administrator in January after long-time administrator Gary Horton retired. Six months into his new role, he feels comfortable with his day-to-day duties but admits he’s waiting for things to calm down.

“Gary told me it would ebb and flow with highs and lows,” said Rolfes. “It feels like it’s been at a high level since I started. I’ve already called him and asked, ‘when does it slow down?'”

As administrator, Rolfes finds himself involved in many more projects, which leads to longer days and more time spent doing business.

“My phone rings a lot more now, and I’m taking things home more than I used to,” he said.

Cultivating business relationships a priority

Despite the busy schedule, Rolfes is happy with his new job and looks forward to a more active role in tackling several community development projects.One priority is boosting the local business district.

Although the city found success with a Main Street spec building, and the new Chubs Country Store is doing well, Akron has also suffered a recent string of closures and has several vacant buildings and businesses for sale.

Rolfes hopes to curb this trend by reaching out and enriching relationships with the city’s existing businesses.

“I’ve been making visits and meeting with local business owners and managers. I’d like to know more about how the city has partnered with each of them in the past, and what we could do in the future to help them maintain or improve their success,” he said.

He would also like to see the city consider building another spec building or even a small strip mall.

“There are several small businesses operating out of the old care center,” he said. “It would be great to move them into a newer, more efficient facility that fully meets their needs.”

Other major projects on Rolfes’ radar include replacing the city’s 50 year-old substation and helping with fundraising efforts for a new city pool.

Support staff provides relief

Of course, he still has a daily schedule to maintain, which includes training the new water/wastewater superintendent, reviewing budgets and expenditures, overseeing all the utility departments, sitting in on various board meetings and helping with miscellaneous projects.

Luckily, he’s got a great support system.

“We have a great crew at the city,” he said. “Our utilities employees work really well together and we all help each other out on a daily basis. The staff at city hall are also great, which makes my job easier.”

Rolfes has also gained guidance from his predecessor, Horton.

“Gary has been very helpful,” he said. “I worked with him on many projects in the past, so I was familiar with a lot of the work. But I still have questions, and he’s always willing to answer and lend a hand if I need it.”

Horton’s knowledge was especially meaningful during the city’s annual budget process, which occurs in the early spring. Rolfes had to help project revenues and expenses for the current fiscal year when he was still relatively new to the job.

“I had only been the administrator for a few months, and the budget process was completely new to me. I definitely relied on his experience and that of our clerks,” Rolfes said.

Common ground boosts solidarity

Despite any early hiccups, Rolfes says the transition to administrator has been relatively smooth. While a lot of that is due to months of on-the-job training and shadowing in 2016, he also gives credit to his Akron roots.

“Being from Akron and having already worked for the city, I brought a sense of familiarity to the position,” he said. “The new water/wastewater operator is also an Akron native. It has helped us maintain a sense of unity.”

Rolfes said he’s grateful for the fellowship as he discerns his new role and the responsibilities that come with it.

“There is a lot going on in town and now I’m responsible for helping sort it out,” he said. “I just try to take every day in stride.”

New Volga city administrator looking forward to community projects

The city of Volga recently welcomed a new face to fill the position of city administrator. South Dakota native Jameson Berreth began his duties June 1 with a warm reception from the community.

Jameson Berreth 1-web“Everyone in the community has been incredibly welcoming and friendly, and are interested in meeting the new person in town,” said Berreth. “It makes me very excited to get to know the community and work with the people who live here.”

Originally from Eureka, Berreth has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University and Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Global Studies from South Dakota State University. Prior to joining the city of Volga, Berreth worked for the South Dakota Department of Education as a management analyst. There, he was part of a team responsible for the consolidation of already existing educational data into one central system. In particular, he led the training of school district teachers and administrators in system usage and data analysis.

Although this is Berreth’s first full-time management position, he believes his experience as president of the SDSU Student’s Association will prove beneficial.

“As president, I was required to manage a large budget, staff, volunteer student senators and other various projects,” said Berreth. “Knowing how much I enjoyed that experience led me to believe I would do well in this position.”

Although city administration wasn’t always on his radar, he’s looking forward to his new role and the variety that comes with it.

“I wanted a career that offered a variety of challenges and experiences while improving and bettering an area, or in this case, a city,” he said. “Leading up to the job, I anticipated each day would be different with new problems and situations to address. So far, it is living up to that expectation!”

While he doesn’t foresee proposing any major changes to the city, Berreth does look forward to getting involved with ongoing projects.

“I need to get my feet wet before initiating any large plans or proposals. Volga was operating very successfully before I arrived, so I don’t expect to make widespread or drastic changes. However, building a community activity center is a priority for many residents as well as the city council. I am looking forward to working on that project, which already has plans drawn up for the facility but still requires a financing strategy,” he said.

He also expects to stay busy managing recent and ongoing developments in the community as well as carefully planning for future growth.

Berreth and his wife Sara are in the process of building a home in Volga. Sara is employed as a dietitian in Watertown, SD.

Horton recognized for outstanding service in Akron

Gary Horton is the inaugural recipient of Heartland’s Distinguished Service Award, created to recognize exceptional employees at Heartland customer utilities. Horton serves as city administrator for Akron, Iowa and has been employed with the city for 31 years  in various roles. Horton was nominated by his co-workers for his work ethic, generosity and commitment to the community and its residents.

Gary Horton, center, accepts the Distinguished Service Award from Heartland officials and Akron city staff. From left to right: Heartland Customer Relations Manager Steve Moses, Akron TITLE TITLE NAME NAME, Clerk Melea Nielsen, Deputy Clerk Karen Wardrip and Heartland Communications Manager Ann Hyland.
Gary Horton, center, accepts the Distinguished Service Award from Heartland officials and Akron city staff. From left to right: Heartland Customer Relations Manager Steve Moses, Akron Office Assistant Kourtney Nicholson, Clerk Melea Nielsen, Deputy Clerk Karen Wardrip and Heartland Communications Manager Ann Hyland.

“Gary is very giving of his time to family and friends, but is also willing to help with community projects on his own time,” said Akron Deputy Clerk Karen Wardrip. “He always puts in well over his 40-hour work week for the city, and knows what is going on not only in the field but in the business and financial areas as well. Gary is not a ‘suit and tie’ city administrator–he always gets out there and gets his hands dirty. He has a good rapport with those he works with, and is always a positive influence.”

Wardrip said Horton played a critical role in helping establish a community-owned health club, including helping with construction and maintenance of the building and serving on the board. He was also instrumental in the installation of playground equipment at a community ball field, development of a fishing site, boat ramp and camping sites at the city park, and flood prevention projects. He is frequently found helping local homeowners with personal projects, such as roofing or cement work and has a near perfect attendance record at city council meetings.

“He not only gets the ball rolling for big projects, but follows them through to completion,” Wardrip said.

Horton is active at his church, serving on the council and capital fund campaign as well as an usher and greeter. He is the Akron city representative on the local landfill board and has served on Heartland’s Customer Connections Committee since its inception in 2011. Prior to his role as city administrator, he served as public works director from 2000-2014.

“My favorite aspect of working for the city has been the variety,” said Horton. “I often fill in for different positions and it makes the day go by so fast.”

Horton and his wife Theresa have two daughters, Kendra and Jessica, and will soon be grandparents. In his free time he enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time at the lake.

Heartland Distinguished ServiceHeartland established the Distinguished Service Award in conjunction with Public Power Week, an annual opportunity for public power utilities to remind customers and stakeholders about the distinct advantages public power offers.

“What better way to mark the occasion than to recognize individuals who make public power exceptional,” said Heartland Communications Manager Ann Hyland. “This annual award will showcase employees who often go above and beyond and have made outstanding contributions to their municipality, community and other organizations.”

Any employee of a municipal system served by Heartland involved in the electric utility was eligible to receive the award, including but not limited to finance officers, line workers and electric superintendents. Any city employee or city official can nominate someone for the award.

Heartland is also celebrating Public Power Week by submitting articles to each customer’s local paper about the benefits of public power. If your utility has a Public Power Week Celebration planned, email us photos and we’ll feature them in our Newsroom.