Goepfert served as HL’s ‘Go to
Guy’ for nearly three decades
BY NANCY DASHWOOD
Tom Goepfert has been working or on-call with
Howard Lake’s public works department since April
Throughout his time on the job, Goepfert has han-
dled many water, sewer, and storm issues for the city
and its residents. That’s about to change.
Goepfert has decided to retire from the Howard
Lake job in early August.
Goepfert grew up on a farm northwest of Howard
Lake, the middle of three brothers. His summers
were spent doing farmwork, and he enjoyed “driving
around with cars and cycles,” and being a member
of the FFA. He graduated from Howard Lake High
School in 1970.
While searching for work, Goepfert kept his ideal
standards front and center.
“I wanted a job with long-term possibilities and
benefits,’ he said. “I wanted stability.”
A good job right in his backyard
Goepfert said that when he was first working for
Howard Lake, he started off with such duties as mow-
ing, flushing hydrants, repairing hydrants, lift station
maintenance, cleaning sewers, and working in the
city’s parks. “I do pretty much whatever needs to be
done,” he said. Back in those days, sludge needed to
be dealt with.
Goepfert recalled that the wastewater treatment
plant was about a year old when his job with How-
ard Lake began. “My first job was to haul and apply
sludge to farm fields,” he said.
Goepfert remembered he had a John Deere tractor
and a 1,500-gallon tanker to haul sludge. “That’s all I
did the first couple months I was here,” he said.
Lawn mowing and snow plowing also took many
of Goepfert’s work hours. He said the city trucks were
quite old when he came on the scene.
His first vehicle for plowing the city’s snow was an
old Chevy pickup truck with a plow on the front, and
a wing on the side.
“The truck had a manual transmission, so I was
constantly shifting gears as I plowed,” he explained.
He used that truck until 1996.
The first winter he worked for Howard Lake, he got
to experience a water main break at the intersection
of 7th St. and 9th Ave.
“The bolts on the gate valve in the intersection had
corroded,” he recalled, “and the top of the gate valve
opened up, leaving roughly a 4-foot by 6-foot hole in
the pipe.” It was December, and the outdoor tempera-
ture hovered at 20 to 30 below zero.
“We could not isolate the valve,” Goepfert said.
“The only way was to shut off the water tower, so we
could dig up the water main.
“We shut off the tower at midnight, and dug up the
main, but we could not get it repaired in time to turn
the water on by morning. So, we had to come back
the next night, shut off the water tower again, and
finish the repair.”
Goepfert distinctly remembers when the city re-
ceived 12 to 14 inches of rain over a few short days,
which caused sewers to back up. He and his crew
worked 30 to 35 hours around the clock pumping
sewers, attempting to keep basements sewage-free.
He said that particular effort paid off well – the
backup led the city council at the time to decide to
complete sewer and water rehab projects in Howard
Lake in the ensuing years
Goepfert also remembers the great blizzard of
1991. He and his staff plowed snow for three days
Six mayors and many friends
Since beginning his work for the city, Goepfert has
worked for six mayors: Welton Zander, Mark Custer,
Gerry Smith, Terry Ostgulen, Rick Lammers and
Goepfert said he got along well with each mayor,
and that he “worked with a lot of good guys over the
Hopes and dreams for Howard Lake
Goepfert said that if he were calling the shots, he
would see the rest of the sewer and water rehab proj-
ects get done.
Tom Goepfert has worked for the City of Howard Lake
for nearly 30 years. The Howard Lake native said city
staff and council should make a point to hire someone
who can live in town.
PHOTO BY NANCY DASHWOOD
Specifically, he said, 8th Avenue from Highway 12,
south to Haywood Drive, 9th Street from Eighth Av-
enue going east, 11th Street, from 8th Avenue, and the
northwest corner of town. He would also advise city
planners to anticipate a water plant upgrade, which
should be done sometime in the next 10 to 20 years.
Into the future
Once officially retired from the City of Howard
Lake, Goepfert intends to get his cars ready for the
McLeod County Fair in August, and enjoy time on
Goepfert also plans to travel a bit with his wife of
nearly 37 years, Paulette. The couple would like to
visit four daughters, seven grandkids, three great-
grandkids, and one on the way, due in October.
‘I don’t want to sit home all day’
Goepfert’s idea of retirement may be different from
other people’s. He fully intends to keep his part-time
job with the City of Mayer, and wouldn’t mind add-
ing an additional job.
“I’ll pick up something, someplace,” he said. “I just
work to keep busy.” In fact, Goepfert has no intention
to fully retire until he is “real old.”
‘I hope they remember I tried my
Goepfert hopes that when people think of his work
for Howard Lake, they will remember good things.
“I hope that I made a difference in my commu-
nity,” he said. “I hope that people remember that I,
and the rest of the employees of the city, are there to
do what is necessary to help Howard Lake grow and
“I tried my best, and I was there when they needed
me,” Goepfert concluded.
Connections October 2018
Senior Connections HJ.COM