Published 8:58 am Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Address: 78781 220th St., Albert Lea
Livelihood: retired Utilities Department supervisor; worked for the city for 36 years
Email newsletter signup
Family: wife, Olene; daughters LeAnn and Amy; son, Zachary
Interesting fact: Eckart is an active bowler in the winter and enjoys golfing in the summer.
When Albert Lean Don Eckart started working for the city in April of 1973, he started at $2.75 an hour.
He had been a farmer, and hail had damaged most of his bean crop. He said he and his wife, Olene, decided they needed some other form of income besides farming.
At first he started working part time at Wilson & Co., but then one day his wife saw an ad for a part-time job in the city, he said. Eventually the work became full-time.
Eckart said he started at the bottom and worked his way up. After 15 years in the Utilities Department, he reached the top step increase he could get.
The Utilities Department takes care of everything under the ground, such as maintaining water and sewer line services.
As time went on, he got to work with many different people and learn about everything in the department, he said.
At the end of November 2009, he retired as the Utilities Department supervisor after working for the city for 36 years.
“It was an invaluable experience as far as working for the city,” Eckart said. “I learned a lot of things. I got to know an enormous amount of people.”
He said the experience also helped him communicate better with people.
“When I was very young, I was very shy. I talked very little,” he explained.
He has learned that the biggest thing a person can do is to try to teach by example.
“I don’t expect somebody to do something I won’t do by myself,” he said. “I found that works very well. People become motivated when they see their boss is willing to do something.”
He tried to become friends with every employee.
One incident that sticks out from his time with the city, he said, was 20 years ago, when he and another employee were cleaning sewers.
Eckart had a machine in a manhole and got hit by a car.
He ended up 75 feet away and suffered a major knee injury.
“It took a couple years before I was mainly recovered, but I went back into everything I was doing before,” Eckart said.
Here’s some work completed by the department in 2008:
956,624,900 gallons of fresh water pumped
358,000 feet of sewer cleaned
141,86 feet of sewers televised
5,820 feet of sewer sawed for roots
3,240 meter service calls made to residence
2,005 Gopher One calls located
1,137 turn offs for unpaid water bills
687 meters with radios or radios added
655 water meters tested
655 water meters sold
487 starter sewer lines flushed
115 manholes rebuilt
101 water services replaced
68 inlets cleaned
34 water main breaks
27 storm inlets repaired or replaced
12 water hydrants replaced or repaired
— Information from www.cityofalbertlea.org
These days, he said he enjoys bowling in the winter and golfing in the summer.
He said he plans on attending a national bowling tournament in Reno, Nev.
In a new endeavor this past summer, he and his son decided they wanted to have bees.
“I’m called a beekeeper now,” he said. “We started with two hives.”
They cultivated 70 pounds of honey from the two hives and were able to sell it all within a two-week span.
Next year, they’re going to try four hives.
Eckart was born and raised in Freeborn County as one of eight children. He lives on the same farm he did as a child.
The city held a retirement party for Eckart at the city garage, which is where he worked out of.
“I was a little surprised at how many people showed up,” he said. “I didn’t want any fancy thing.”