North Lewisburg Village Administrator Andy Yoder addresses members of council at Tuesday night’s meeting. Yoder will be retiring from his position in March. He has worked for the village for 32 years, the last 15 as administrator.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Chad Williamson)
Moving from behind a broom to behind a desk in the same organization is a long road.
Hired as a street sweeper by North Lewisburg 32 years ago, current Village Administrator Andy Yoder never intended to enter a career in public service. Now planning his retirement from the village in March, service to the village is all he has known.
“I don’t want to say I was ultra-community minded, but I kind of was,” Yoder said after his retirement plans were announced at Tuesday’s North Lewisburg Village Council meeting.
Yoder’s start with the village came shortly after he finished high school when he was hired as a part-time seasonal worker, tasked with cleaning the winter grim and debris off the streets – with a push broom. The work had two appealing aspects.
“It was a job making money and I didn’t have to travel,” Yoder said.
That opportunity led to Yoder being hired full time by the village in April of 1990. The work was still pretty standard, painting, mowing and plowing. But he also learned the ins and outs of the village water and sewer plants, including installation of utility lines.
When the village got a new wastewater plant in 1992, he obtained an operator’s license. When a new water plant was built in 1998, he was certified to operate it as well.
For the past 15 years, Yoder has served as administrator, making him responsible for all day-to-day operations within the village. Current Mayor Cheryl Hollingsworth credited Yoder with bringing $5 million in grant money into the village to improve water and sewer services, roads and safety operations.
Yoder admitted that serving the people of his hometown can be challenging, especially when residents are unhappy over mandates that are out of the village’s control.
“You can’t get away from it,” Yoder said of interacting with displeased village residents. “You have to be the bad guy, but you didn’t make the rules.”
But when he did play a role in the decision-making that impacted residents, Yoder had one goal.
“Do what’s best for the majority,” Yoder said, noting that there will always be some residents unhappy with decisions.
Yoder’s three-decade career, in various capacities within the village, has given him a unique perspective in observing North Lewisburg’s growth and success stories, but also its problems.
Chief among the village’s accomplishments, according to Yoder, was the passage of a 1% income tax in 1993 under longtime Mayor Max Coates.
“That opened a lot of doors,” Yoder said.
The village’s financial picture is also a positive. At the end of 2021 the village had carryover funds of $1.58 million, which is more than a year’s worth of operating expenses.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of keeping the money where it needs to be,” he said.
That surplus in funds did come from frugal spending, a practice learned from lessons of the past.
“We always try to do more with less,” Yoder said.
Those lessons started in the early 90s, when North Lewisburg saw residential growth. From 1990 to 2000, the village population grew 36%, from 1,160 residents to 1,588.
That growth, and new residents expected in the future, led village officials to construct the new water and sewer plants in the 90s. But after taking on that debt, the growth stopped.
In the 2010 census, North Lewisburg’s population actually declined. Yoder said the problem was compounded by the recession in the late 2000s which sent the village into some lean years financially.
What helped get the village back on track fiscally was the long tenure of village leadership and workers. He said that knowledge base will help his successor find his or her footing.
“We’ve had pretty good continuity for a while,” Yoder said. “The groundwork is there.”
Hollingsworth said the village will begin advertising for the job immediately, with the hope of having someone in place to work alongside Yoder for a period of time before he retires.