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Duane Upah retires


August 16, 2012
By John Speer - Editor , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Toledo Superintendent of Public Works Duane "Duke" Upah observed his 65th birthday on July 31. He also retired that day after a 42-year career working for the City of Toledo.

He is already enjoying "no city cell phone" and not being on call 24-hours-a-day.

Upah, along with the late Ernie Mayo who retired as city administrator in 1990, both had long-running tenures working for Toledo.

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Duane Upah
Retires as Toledo Superintendent of Public Works
Chronicle/John Speer

Mayo hired Upah just before Thanksgiving 42 years ago to become the city's water and sewer plant operator.

Long before Upah was done, he became the Superintendent of Public Works, and served in this position until just retiring. He took over major responsibilities when Mayo shifted to part-time in the 1980s.

Duane said when he started work, his annual pay was $4,000 directly from city coffers. This salary was supplemented with another $4,000 from a Veterans Administration employment program under which he had been hired.

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A veteran of the U.S. Army Engineers, Upah served 15 months in Viet Nam during the war in 1967-68.

When he joined the city, fellow department employees were Merle McCreary, Howard Ross, Herman Urhammer and Lawrence Schroder.

While many take the municipal water supply and sanitary and storm sewer operations somewhat for granted, the expense is reflected in city budgets and Toledo is no exception.

Much of the responsibility for these operations has come under Duane's guidance for many years.

Duane has also worked in and overseen the street department, city park, city buildings, Woodlawn Cemetery and served as the gas inspector and building and zoning administrator.

He is a certified level 2 water and waste water operator and a level 3 distribution operator.

Over the years he served under mayors George Stein, John Kopecky, Harry Gardner jr., Bill Christensen, Eugene Anderson, Pam Wood and Dave Svoboda and a long list of city council members.

When he began, the city had what was known as a mechanical waste water treatment plant located on West Ross Street near which what had been the city dump. It was replaced by a new facility south of U.S. 30 near what was then the city landfill.

Four decades later, Toledo has a new $5 million treatment plant located south of the U.S. 30 Expressway.

Currently, the city is looking to a new water treatment plant, Duane said.

He's also been part of a lot of other improvements made in Toledo over the years including major one to the water and sewer system, building and equipment upgrades.

Some of those include a water main loop along the east side, a new water tower, several big street improvement programs which has left only three short segments of city streets unpaved and drilling of a second Jordan well. Also, a new city shop building, library renovation and addition, the Reinig-Toledo Civic Center, the Kids Corner Day Care Center, the Wieting Theatre renovation, Tama-Toledo Family Aquatic Center and a new fire station.

The city also tore out one-half mile of abandoned railroad tracks to allow for formation of a portion of the South Tama Recreation Trail.

The Job

"The worst part of the job has been storm damage," Upah said. "Mother Nature deals us some bad ones. Ice and wind storms are the worst."

As Fire Chief and emcee Joe Boll said at Upah's retirement reception on Aug. 2, "It's Duane who's out in the pickup with the snow blade first."

Duane said it has always been important to keep roads to the nursing home and fire station open during snow storms.

He said water main breaks are another difficult part of the job.

Mark Zmolek, a long-time Toledo city employee, took over the reins from upah on Aug. 1.

Duane said he is looking forward being able to devote a bit more time to the family-owned and operated John Ernest Vineyard and Winery at rural Tama. He also will do bulldozing for a Clutier contractor. Duane also enjoys hunting and fishing and expects to be be in Minnesota on a fishing trip this week.

He and his wife, Vicki, have been married since 1971 and have two sons, Shawn and Ronnie and two grandchildren.



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