It’s official. Joe Morrow has left the building.

If that conjures up an image of Elvis for you, then you have a sense of the impact Joe’s departure has had on my team’s office and on all of City Hall. He is an expert in his field, a true public servant and a great friend.

As you may know, Joe has retired from his duties as Building Official/Facilities Manager with the City of Yankton. His last day with the organization was May 10. I wish Joe and his family the best “after-city employment life” for which anyone could possibly hope.  

You may have also heard that we have hired Gregg Homstad to fill the vacancy. He is proving to be an excellent addition to the team. The staff in the Community and Economic Development Department appreciate the organization’s commitment to training new staff in this situation. Allowing Gregg to be on board for three months with Joe here to provide mentorship has been extremely helpful and a wise investment in our future.

The Building Official position had been vacant for a few months at the time Joe was hired in 1996. Existing staff had limited knowledge of the codes and were also swamped with other summer projects that were under construction. Therefore, Joe’s initiation into the duties of the position was obviously a bit of a shock with a steep learning curve. He met that challenge and would go on to set the bar for the position. To Yankton’s benefit, he attained some of the highest certifications levels of any building official in the state.

I say this with the highest possible admiration: Joe exemplifies the “learning nerd” mentality we strive for in the Community and Economic Development Department. His desire for knowledge and his self-starter work ethic allowed him to learn the majority of our adopted building, mechanical, plumbing and city codes — containing almost unfathomable levels of detail — on his own. These codes are each found in three-plus inch thick books. Joe registered for and tested through certifications for each of the applicable codes, doing much of the studying and test-taking during evenings and weekends because there was plenty of customer service work to do Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. One of the things that people don’t realize is that having code-certified staff helps keep insurance rates down for every property owner in the community.

The City of Yankton has experienced substantial growth under Joe’s watchful eye over the last 23 years. During his tenure, he and his staff have issued permits for, and inspected over 1,600 new housing units. The total of all residential, commercial and industrial development that has occurred during his tenure amounts to over $565 million in permit valuations! This does not even include those projects located in the extraterritorial jurisdiction with which he has been involved.

We have discussed with Joe the possibility of being available for a phone call or to drop by if we need some advice. Or maybe assistance with a short-term special project if we need help. At this point in time, he has indicated that he may favorably consider such requests. While we don’t want to interrupt “Future Joe’s” plans, there are things about which he has individual knowledge, and having access to him could save us time and money. In typical Joe Morrow fashion, his only hesitancy about being available once in a while is his concern for the feelings of the new staff. He does not want to step on anyone’s toes. I assured him that nobody here would feel that way, and we would appreciate his wisdom, if needed.

I am sure that, if Joe sees these comments, they will make him uncomfortable because he has always shied away from the individual spotlight and focused on a team-first mentality. It just seems appropriate to take a minute at this time to reflect on Joe’s contributions to the City of Yankton. Joe leaves his employment here with all of us very proud of his accomplishments. He is a dear friend, and we wish him the best for his future.

Dave Mingo is Community and Economic Development Director for the City of Yankton.

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