When Jon Monson was hired by the city of Greeley to act as director of the Water and Sewer Department 18 years ago, he was all arms in the air and enthusiasm for the job.
“You’re on the side of angels,” Monson told The Tribune in an April 29, 1996, interview — just 10 days into the job. “You’re one of the good guys protecting the environment … and providing water that’s necessary for life. That’s exciting.”
On Thursday — just three days into retirement — not much had changed.
“I would like to stay involved in water,” Monson said of his plans as a retiree. “People respect the transformative power of water to create the environment we want to create.”
Monson’s passion for the job came up a number of times among coworkers and friends at Monson’s last day this week as something they will remember him by and miss.
Monson will be missed for his quotes from famous people like Benjamin Franklin and Plato, his “data-dense” graphics, his Socratic style and his Christmas bread, said Harold Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water Board, at Monson’s retirement party Monday.
But more importantly, Monson will be missed for his leadership.
“Things work well and are delivered in a cost-effective manner, plus Greeley is positioned well for the future with its critical infrastructure of water and wastewater,” Evans said. “That’s the definition of leadership.”
In his time with the city, Monson set the tone for the development of Greeley’s water system with the 2003 Water Master Plan, helped rebuild both the Bellvue and Boyd Lake water treatment plants, was recognized by the state for the city’s water conservation program, expanded the Bellvue pipeline to near completion, acquired at least 10,000 more acre-feet of water in anticipation of population growth, oversaw a great deal of improvements on the sewer system and created more local water storage, such as at the Poudre Ponds.
Through it all, Monson has never faltered in saying he loves his job, said Charlotte Hansen, his wife.
“To be able to love your work, that is a true gift in life. Well, this man loves his work. Believe me,” Hansen said at Monson’s retirement party.
There were challenges through the years, the worst of which was the painstakingly long process of environmental permitting for projects like the Bellvue pipeline or water storage, Monson said. Although even those things he said he understood as necessary components of the job.
Greeley Mayor Tom Norton said Monson steered the city particularly well through major upgrades to Greeley’s wastewater treatment plant, which has been recognized by the EPA for sustainability and energy efficiency.
“Jon led the way to making the wastewater facilities as important as water facilities, and our stewardship for clean water downriver as well as clean water upriver,” Norton said. “I think that’s very, very important.”
Monson also was honored this week by the Farr family, who said W.D. Farr — a Greeley leader who left a number of legacies, including planning for water — was particularly fond of him.
“It was such a wonderful gift that W.D. gave me in the last decade of his life, to give some inkling, some fraction of what he knew about water,” Monson said Thursday. “The more I think about it, it was a gift from me to him to give him the opportunity to share what he knew. And I hope to do that, to find some way of passing that on.”
During retirement, Monson said he hopes to work for Engineers Without Borders and work on his fly-fishing skills. In the near future, Monson will be sailing, traveling to Europe to visit his wife’s family and track down his own ancestors and meet his daughter in Nepal as she and her husband motorcycle through South Asia.
Before Greeley, Monson worked in south Florida as a utility director. Before that, he lived in Boulder and moved around the South as a water engineer.
“Greeley has been really good to me,” Monson said Thursday with a nostalgic smile. “It was a good place to spend half my career.”