Town’s ‘Mr. Everything’ will be hard to replace |

Town’s ‘Mr. Everything’ will be hard to replace

When Tom Yackey showed up to work last Monday morning, for the first time in 22 years it wasn’t as the director of public works in Yampa.

Last month, Yackey told the Yampa Board of Trustees that he was resigning from his position, leaving a huge void in the town that could take two people to fill.

As the public works director for Yampa, Yackey was an icon for the town as well as an example of the classic handyman.

“Tom did everything, and he didn’t very often ask for much help,” Town Trustee Jody Vetter said.

Yackey did do everything. Streets, water and sewer maintenance and repairs, mechanical work and building inspections were the core elements of his job but not the limits.

“Basically whatever needed doing,” Yackey said modestly.

On top of his public works responsibilities he volunteered as the assistant fire chief in Yampa and has been an instrumental part of the town’s Fourth of July celebration.

At one time in the 1970s, Yackey was even the town marshal. Traditionally in Yampa, the public works director also was the law enforcement officer. That position proved to be harder than one might think, Yackey said.

“I thought, ‘Yea, anyone can be a cop,'” he said with a laugh. “It didn’t work out that way.”

Yackey’s the type of person who is driven to take apart anything that he doesn’t understand and figure out how it works.

Even computers.
“The first several years (the town) had one I couldn’t even turn it on,” he said.

However, as time went by, Yackey began to take the computer apart and figure out the programs. Now the computer has been added to the long list of things he can fix.

“I’ve been cursed with having to figure out how to do things,” he explained.

Curse or not, it has enabled him to learn virtually everything about the water and sewer system in Yampa.

“He’s an extremely competent individual,” said Mike Zopf, Routt County’s director of environmental health. Zopf has worked with Yackey on many water projects in south Routt County.

“He’s just really dedicated to it,” Zopf said. “He’s really got the science down to an art.”

Yackey isn’t completely leaving the public works business in south Routt. In addition to his new job running and maintaining equipment for the Redmond Brothers General Operating Co., he’s going to try to maintain the water and sewer in Phippsburg. But that’s only if it doesn’t cut into his free time too much.

“The little plant has had a lot of problems and it looks like it’s coming together,” he said.

Phippsburg water has copper in it from the plumbing in the old houses in the town. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials have been working with Yackey to try to modernize the plant to fix the problem.

True to his personality, Yackey said: “I’m kind of curious to see if it’s going to work.”

Also, he admitted, the Phippsburg job is a way to keep doing something he enjoys.

“It’s fascinating,” he said of the job, “and it helps from getting completely away from it.”

Yackey would have liked to stay working in Yampa but the public works job was becoming more and more time consuming with increased regulations to follow and paperwork to fill out. That made it difficult for him to find time to visit his grandchildren in Kansas, which is why he resigned.

His departure left the town of Yampa with some pretty big shoes to fill. “I’m sure the town is going to miss him,” Town Clerk Janet Ray said.

The trustees will go through numerous applications this week to try to find someone to do the job, but Trustee Vetter knows it’s going to be difficult.

“The knowledge between his ears is going to be hard to replace,” he said.

Yackey’s not going anywhere. He still lives in town and will still volunteer his time to the community.

“It was just time to do something different,” he said.

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