Did you graduate from MHS after 1985? if you did, the odds are pretty high you remember Jerry Kathman. Kathman has been the Facilities Maintenance Manager for the Milbank School District for 33 years. Today, August 1, was his last day.
What are Jerry’s plans for retirement? “More time on the greens,” he jokes. Because everyone who knows Jerry, knows he is an avid golfer. He says he and his wife, Sandy, have no plans to leave Milbank. “Other places are a good place to visit but Milbank is home.”Jerry joined the Milbank district in 1985, after the facility he was working at in Fairmont, Minnesota, consolidated with another district. When he arrived in Milbank, and for at least half of his time with the district, he managed three schools. “We had to be on top of everything,” he says, “at all three buildings and deal with all the personalities, as far as the teachers go.”
Jerry and Sandy raised their children in Milbank and he can’t say enough positive things about their experience. “The town is like a big family, everyone looks out for one another. We are lucky that way. Not a lot of towns our size are that lucky.” He says, “The kids in Milbank are good kids. In my travels to other schools, I always look at the bathrooms… at some schools the kids have no discipline. In Milbank, the kids are very well mannered.”
He says over the decades he has witnessed many changes – the addition of the middle school, three or four superintendents, different staff and coworkers. “I’ve had such a close relationship. If it wouldn’t have been for the staff working along with me, it would have been tough. It’s just been a joy for me and it’s going to be very tough to leave.”
He and Sandy already occasionally leave town to go on two or three vacations each year and they visit Arizona for a month. “A month is enough for me,” Jerry admits,” but my wife loves it there. She misses the grandkids and great grandkids.”
“My wife and daughter always ask me ‘What are you going to do (after you retire)?'” Jerry says with a laugh, “Well, I say my honey-do list has grown drastically. It was six inches long, and now it’s a couple pages! I’m a jack-of-all- trades, master of none.”
“I also tell them, ‘I want to be able to enjoy life while my health allows, and take everything one day at a time.'” He says he likes to hunt and has some friends with whom he plans to go fishing. “I like to piddle around the house, help friends.”
So one day at a time it is! Jerry has earned that privilege.
Although his last official day with the school district is done, and Phil Seehafer has been hired as the new Facilities Maintenance Manager. Jerry believes it will take a while for Phil to learn the ropes and he says, “With every season there will be new struggles.”
“It will be a while before I’m gone-gone,” Jerry says. “If I’m ever gone. Not too many people realize all the stuff I do. I make it look easy because I’ve done it so long. Whenever they need me, they just have to call.”
Milbank Middle School and MHS custodians: (Back l. to r.) Jay Elsberry and Richard Bohn. (Front) Jerry Kathman and Justin Brown.