Bert Kracht has been taking care of township roads for 30 years and has loved every moment of it.
Kracht was hired by the Beaver Creek Township Board in March 1984. His training all came on the job – one that offered him plenty of challenges.
His job had two main elements, snow removal in the winter and maintenance and care in the summer.
For most of his career his wife, Theodora, was his partner on the job.
“She wasn’t on the payroll but she sure put in the time.”
She would take calls from residents during storms and relay the information to Bert. For the first couple of decades that was done over CB radio, but in the 1990s he got a cellphone.
Calls from home would help Bert know if someone needed his help. Throughout the years he has helped rescue stranded drivers, led other drivers home during blizzards and even cleared roads so that people could get to a safer and warmer shelter.
“If it wouldn’t have been for her, my job would have been a lot harder.”
Bert still works for the township but his job has scaled back a bit. A few years ago he turned the job of removing snow over to Chaiden Kuehl.
The board wanted to recognize his years of service and have decided to host an open house in his honor. The celebration is scheduled for Saturday, July 13, at the Beaver Creek Township Hall.
Bert was shocked when he heard about the event and admits he is somewhat embarrassed to attend.
“I don’t like to toot my own horn – I just like to do my job.”
His job currently consists of grading 52 miles of roads in Beaver Creek and Springwater townships. Each road requires two passes, for a total of 104 miles of roads to maintain in the non-winter months. He estimates that takes three days to complete.
Throughout his career he has had the chance to build up several township roads. He welcomed the challenge and is proud of how well those roads turned out.
Winter of 1996/97
Bert’s history with the township is largely shaped by winter weather. He knows how many inches fell on various years and easily names the winter of 1996-97 as the worst for being a snow mover.
“It started with an early layer of ice, that didn’t go away. There were 80-90 inches of snow on top of the ice that winter.”
He recalls working many 16-to-17-hour days trying to keep the snow off the roads. The hours were long enough to make his wife concerned. That was the winter he got a cell phone.
She would often accuse him of working too hard. To this he would explain that the roads needed to be in the condition that he would want his own road to be in. That took time — time he was happy to give.
“My parents always told me, ‘If you are going to take the time to do something — do it right.’”
Bert has lots of stories from that winter — the incredible snowdrifts, the stranded people and the relentless wind.
Bert easily recalls the four maintainers he has driven during his 30 years with the township.
He knows the brand, the engine and the number of hours he spent at the wheel.
The biggest equipment change during his time was front wheel assist – this made a big difference in plowing snow.
Watching the machines become more computerized was also interesting for Bert who himself is mechanically inclined.
A few years back the front wheel assist went out on the John Deere. When the tech arrived, they opened the cab door, plugged in a computer and let it sit for a time before unplugging it.
“That was it — the computer fixed the problem. No tools, no machines, nothing — just a computer.”
Throughout the years Bert has fixed many things for the township. He is a bit of a tinkerer. He managed to find a plow blade in Sioux City and retrofit it to their truck. He built his own wagon for hauling tree limbs and continues to keep up with maintenance at the shop.