Though 82-year-old Charlie Metzger has been an alderman in Waterloo for 38 years, he plans to finish his current term and complete 40 years in the position.
He has seen Waterloo through the ages and has worked with countless other aldermen, mayors and residents of Waterloo.
Though being an alderman was never one of his life goals, he said seeing the city grow and change over the years has been both interesting and satisfying.
Metzger got involved with the functioning of the city after he married his wife and their home had a problem with the sewer backing up in the basement.
“I went to a city council meeting to get some help with the problem,” he said. “Because it wasn’t just me – it was other people in the area, too.”
When Metzger wasn’t satisfied with the suggestions he was given, he decided to become an alderman.
Metzger has been heavily involved with Waterloo’s power plant over the years, and has seen the way the city’s electrical department operates during outages advance and evolve to the state-of-the-art system it maintains today.
Metzger said he has the utmost respect for the electricians who work so hard to make sure the city’s power is stable and working.
“I’ve learned to really appreciate the people we have, because I’ve seen them get out of some really tough messes,” he said. “They know what they’re doing.”
An electrician himself, Metzger said he likes going out to watch the employees work when there are problems with the city’s power. But a knee surgery in January has been making it hard for him to get around these days.
Metzger retired 20 years ago from Union Electric and has thrown himself into his alderman position with full force, citing it as a way to stay busy.
“I used to know pretty much the whole population of Waterloo back in the day, but I don’t anymore,” he said of Waterloo’s substantial residential growth over the years.
Metzger grew up east of Waterloo on Martini Road and had two ambitions as a young man: to be a fireman and serve as a Marine.
He accomplished both.
He served 27 years with the Waterloo Fire Department and also served in the Korean War.
“When I was on the fire department, we were the first responders to everything,” he said.
Metzger nearly lost his life in the Korean War in the 1950s, when he witnessed firsthand a nuclear bomb that was set off during testing.
“I sat under that bomb when it went off,” he said. “I had all the things that they said would go wrong happen to me.”
Because of being in such close proximity to radiation from the bomb, Metzger has suffered in the past from cancer, a heart attack and six bypass surgeries.
“The government says it’s not a result of the bomb,” he said.
But Metzger believes otherwise.
“That bomb was something to see,” he said. “When that thing went off, I saw all the bones in both of my hands. That’s how much radiation we got.”
Metzger survived the after-effects of radiation, two back surgeries that were work-related, and the knee surgery earlier this year.
He said he still gets out to council meetings, committee meetings and family outings with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but it’s not as easy as it used to be.
Any time he has been ill, Metzger said he has always had many people around him to help.
Metzger and his wife have been married nearly 57 years, and he said his time on the Waterloo City Council has absolutely flown by.
“I’ve lived kind of a wild life,” he said. “If I was a cat, I’d be on my eighth life at least.”
He said he doesn’t have any major plans for his retirement, but he knows he is going to have to stay busy.
“I’ve seen a lot of interesting things and had so many great discussions with wonderful people,” he said. “It’s been a great 38 years, and I hope the next two are just as good.”