InTrans / Oct 08, 2021

“I’ve had a good run”

James “Buck” Hoffmeier a few weeks before
his 50th anniversary as a county employee

Crawford County employee celebrates 50 years in job on Sept. 1

James W. Hoffmeier, known as Buck, had spent the summer before he turned 18 doing odds and ends jobs for Crawford County. He worked for a few weeks with the oiling crew and then to the bridge crew, and by September 1, he had a full-time job as a maintenance laborer with the county.

He’s been working there ever since, and on September 1, 2021, he will celebrate 50 years on the job.

“I just liked the work that we do, because I’ve had different jobs with the county. I was on the bridge crew, then for a while I drove a small truck, then I ran a scraper for a while. Now, I run a maintainer,” Hoffmeier said. “I just liked the variety. There’s always different things to do.”

Hoffmeier, who was born in Denison and raised south of there in Buck Grove, said he didn’t necessarily intend to continue with the county for his entire career, and calls it more of a coincidence of circumstances.

Still, he only considered leaving for a different job one time. He took military leave to serve as a Navy Seabee from 1973–1975 during the Vietnam War, and he thought he might take that experience to the city. By the time he made it back home, Hoffmeier decided to stick with the county and see where things went.

“Next thing I knew, I’ve been here so many years,” Hoffmeier said. “I’ve had a good run.”

Crawford County Engineer Paul Assman, who has worked with Hoffmeier for 21 of those 50 years, said Hoffmeier’s years have proven his dedication to his county and maintaining Iowa’s secondary roads.

“For someone to commit 50 years of their life to an organization, I think it speaks a lot to that person’s dedication,” Assman said. “Buck’s been a great employee. I’ve known him and worked with him for 21 years. He’s always done a good job, reliable, dedicated, and again takes pride and ownership in what he does.”

Assman said Crawford County has had several long-time employees—which he credits to a mix of job satisfaction, a good work-life balance, and a good community—but he’s only worked with one other aside from Hoffmeier who’ve stuck with their career for 50 years.

“It’s somewhat uncommon for us to have someone start working for us and switch careers under my tenure. Not very many have moved on,” he said, adding, “Ask yourself how many people do you know with 50-year careers in one place. I know of two, and they both worked here.”

For Hoffmeier, his job satisfaction came in part from the variety of his work. However, there were other changes happening in Hoffmeier’s life as well after his military service. He married his wife Kim in 1978, and they had 3 children. In 1983, the family moved to Charter Oak where they’ve been since.

Though the children have since grown and moved away, they—and Hoffmeier’s three grandchildren—are all little more than an hour from Charter Oak.

As Hoffmeier’s 68th birthday approaches—just days before his work anniversary—he said he is starting to think about retirement, though he still feels good on the job. For the most part.

“The only thing is now that I’m getting older, I don’t like the snow near as well,” he said, adding, “I think that goes for everybody.”

No retirement date has been set, but he said he’s thinking about it and expects it will be before next spring.

“At times, it seems like 50 years is a long time; other times, it seems like it went by really fast. I don’t know how to explain it,” Hoffmeier said. “I look back and say, ‘Where did the 50 years go?’”