Despite not working in prominent roles like teacher or administrator, Jack Latchem became a familiar and friendly face in the Waterloo School District over his career there.
Now, after 27 years as the district’s director of buildings and grounds, Latchem’s face will become even less high-profile because he is retiring.
“I enjoyed my job, and probably the biggest highlight was the difference in the day-to-day,” Latchem said. “There’s always a challenge going on, and it’s always different.”
Latchem worked as an electrician for 12 years, in addition to a few other similar jobs, before starting in Waterloo on April 1, 1993.
When he and his wife started a family, they decided to move to Waterloo, and Latchem chose to get a job with the school district.
“We moved to Waterloo knowing it was a nice community, and we wanted to raise our children in a good community,” Latchem recalled.
At first, Latchem’s department was only him and a person who worked part-time as a custodian and part-time as a maintenance man. Growing the department is one of the accomplishments Latchem takes the most pride in.
“Over the 27 years, with the help of the school boards and superintendents, I was able to build a department where we could hire people who had the qualifications that kept us from hiring out and spending large amounts of money,” he said.
The skills of Latchem’s workers became especially critical after The Great Recession, when his department had to cut back on much of its typical work.
“Like everybody else, we had to sharpen our pencils,” Latchem noted. “That’s one thing that I’m proud of with the Waterloo School District — we’ve always been able to supply a good education and clean environment inside and out for our students and staff.”
Latchem said that also extended to his own children.
“They’ve all become good, upright citizens, and it’s directly due to the education they received in Waterloo,” he said after thanking teachers and staff for their continuous efforts.
The people in the district have also benefited Latchem, as he said his coworkers were among his favorite parts of the job and one of the things he will miss the most when he officially retires next Friday.
“I don’t believe in the word ‘I’ much,” Latchem explained. “Everything was a team effort. We worked well together. I was able to hire the correct people to get the job done. Just being able to know that we’ve come this far and been able to save the district and taxpayers’ money that can go toward education and help the children is great.”
But, as a self-described “workaholic” who turns 66 next Thursday and has worked two jobs his whole life, Latchem said it was time to retire.
“If I don’t do it now, it’s like ‘when would I ever do it?,’” he said.
Although he plans to still work some jobs as a general contractor, which he did throughout his time in Waterloo, Latchem said his focus will now shift to playing golf and spending time with his family.