After more than 41 years with the City of Salem, Jack Emory is no longer a fixture at the water/sewer department at 2101 S. Wines.
Emory retired April 14 after a career that began Oct. 24, 1978 when Louie Roberts was the mayor.
“I enjoyed working for the City of Salem,” he said. “I appreciated all the aldermen and the mayors that I worked for. They’ve all been good, cooperative. I told my crew different times, there’s no better place to work than the City of Salem.”
He added, “I enjoyed meeting the people and doing things that they needed to be done. I feel like I had a good rapport with the community.”
He started his career at the waste treatment plant and, after six months, transferred to the water department where he remained until 1989, reading meters, operating a backhoe, repairing water leaks and working on the water distribution system. During that time, the department was moved to its current location.
“One of the highlights was when the city moved from the location at Tower and Condray over to 2101 S. Wines,” he said. “We moved in 1987. There were no restroom facilities at Tower and Condray.”
The new building was completed and occupied in December of that year.
In 1989 he returned to the sewer plant and operated the plant with Gene Craft until Craft retired around 1992. On July 1, 1994, Emory transferred back to the water and sewer department and was promoted to water/sewer superintendent, a position he held for more than 25 years until his retirement last month.
As superintendent, his duties included planning daily work activities, handling the purchasing for the water and sewer department and helping set up capital improvements, advising aldermen on equipment that was needed and the water and sewer lines that needed to be upgraded, Emory said. He also served on the finance committee and participated in budget planning for trucks and equipment.
“When I took over in ’94 the city had about 10 miles of two-inch water lines,” Emory recalled. “Bill Huffman soon became the director of public works. I drew up plans for those lines to be replaced. The two-inch was replaced with six-inch PVC water pipe.” Around 2001, the city had a construction crew replace many other lines that had been laid out, he said.
On the sewer side, the city used to have a contractor come in and replace the sewer mains. “But now we have a company put a liner in them,” Emory said. “It’s cheaper, we don’t have to dig up the street and therefore don’t have to replace the gravel and the asphalt.”
The company cleans the sewer pipes, removing roots, debris and gravel. “Then they’ve got a liner they blow in from one manhole to the next, then put heat to it and it adheres to the inside of the pipe,” Emory said. The liner is warrantied for 50 years. The city has been using the process for several years, he said.
Emory also remembers when the water tower was built at the industrial park around 1987. “I helped clear the way,” he said. “Then it was just timber. I took the backhoe and pushed the trees and the brush out of the way to get into that site.”
He also played a role in getting a new city well, No. 8, drilled at the city park. It went online in 1997.
With his long career now behind him, Emory is making plans for a more relaxed pace to his life.
“I looked forward to retiring someday,” he said. “I had mixed feelings about retiring but finally I decided it was time to spend more time with my grandkids, and I like fishing and hunting and working around the place.
“It was a tough decision but I decided it was time to step down and let somebody else pick up the mantel and go with it.”
His cousin, Lynn Engle, planned a surprise party for him on his last day at work that was attended by many family and friends. A crowd of people were waiting for him with signs and noisemakers as he walked out of the building at 4 p.m.
“I was really caught off guard,” he laughed. “She surprised me.”