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Working for the County

By Staff | Jul 1, 2010

Larry Sundall with a wooden model of a Vietnam-era chopper which was made in Vietnam. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Sundall marks 20 years

If you’ve lived in Emmet County for any period over the past 20 years and needed help, you’ve probably met Larry Sundall.

Sundall wears three hats for Emmet County – director of general relief, director of the zoning commission and director of the veterans affairs commission. On July 14 he will hang up all three hats, continue to collect antique fishing tackle and go fishing.

Sundall grew up in Terril where he graduated with the class of 1963. He attended Iowa Lakes Community College for a year, worked at Morrell’s in Estherville then volunteered for four years of service in the U.S. Navy from 1966-69 during the Vietnam Conflict where he worked in a carrier-based ordinance team – “I flew over Vietnam but I was never in it,” said Sundall.

After his enlistment was up, Sundall returned to Morrell’s until it closed then worked at J.D. Webb John Deere for a year. After that he completed his education at Iowa Lakes and went on to Buena Vista University.

Dave Kaltved talks with well-wishers at a retirement reception held Tuesday afternoon in the courthouse. EDN photo by David Swartz

Sundall worked at Forest Ridge for two and a half years then in May 1990 took the position as Emmet County veterans service coordinator. About the same time, he took on general assistance duties and a year later he was named zoning director.

One visit to Sundall’s office tells you which of his three jobs is closest to his heart.

“Emmet County has always had a history of carrying quality services to veterans,” Sundall said. “And I thought we should carry that out.”

Carry it out he did and then some.

Sundall was instrumental in getting the VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Spirit Lake, bringing health coverage to more veterans. Sundall also coordinated health care for veterans at Avera Holy Family Health and Emmet County Public Health. He also worked to provide flu shot clinics.

“I like to think the bar was set high when I took the job and we’ve been able to maintain it,” Sundall said.

Sundall has also been active in lobbying both at the state and federal levels on veterans’ issues, most particularly providing rural health care for veterans. The success of Sundall’s call for rural health care for veterans has been apparent. The Spirit Lake clinic, which was put in place with the understanding it would serve 1,200 veterans a year, has actually served 2,000.

“That took a lot of work with other counties to get them to lobby at the federal level,” Sundall said.

As a veteran himself, Sundall can easily relate to the difficulty Vietnam veterans had in getting their health issues addressed. He said it took the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to refocus the need for veterans’ health care.

And he feels that those pleas have been heard.

“In 20 years I’ve sent he quality of health care at the VA rise substantially,” Sundall said. “The VA has a health-care system that has won national awards for its quality and effectiveness.”

Above all, Sundall would like to thank those he has served over the last 20 years.

“I’d like to thank the veterans of Emmet County for serving their country and allowing me to serve them,” Sundall said.

He also thanks Emmet County for putting veterans’ affairs in the forefront and providing the services veterans deserve.

In the zoning arena, Sundall has seen a good bit of growth in Emmet County over the past 20 years.

“There’s been a tremendous number of new homes, new developments over the last 20 years,” Sundall said, noting subdivisions around Iowa and Tuttle Lake and north of Estherville.

And, in his duties as director of general relief, Sundall feels it’s necessary to allow people to maintain their pride and dignity.

“If you’ve done that, you’ve done a good job,” Sundall said.

A retirement party will be held for Sundall 3-6 p.m. Tuesday, July 13 at the VFW trophy room in Estherville. Everyone is encouraged to come wish him well on his retirement.

Due to department restructuring, effective July 14 the new Emmet County community services and veterans affairs office will take calls for both veterans assistance and general relief at 362-2452. The new department will also provide mental health and case management services. Sundall’s veterans affairs position will be filled by Deb Tietje, his long-term administrative assistant since December 2000, who will assist Dorothy Christensen, Emmet County mental health CPC, with general assistance duties.

Northwest Iowa Planning and Development Commission will contract for zoning administration services. After July 14, direct zoning questions to the Emmet County engineer’s office at 362-4846.

Kaltved finishes 40 years

To get a job, it helps to know the right people. That’s as true today as it was 40 years ago when Dave Kaltved began working for the Emmet County Engineers office.

Kaltved said he spent three years in the city engineer’s office and he knew the head county engineer Gary Stribley.

“He looked at my resume about five minutes and said, ‘you’re hired.'”

That was March 2, 1970.

Wednesday of this week was Kaltved’s final day in the engineer’s office.

“It doesn’t seem like it went that fast,” said Kaltved, who has always enjoyed working with the public.

Kaltved started his education at Lake Center School from kindergarten through second grade, went to grade school in Swea City and graduated from Estherville High School in 1960.

He worked with the public in the Air Force and took care of the VIPs.

That training helped in with his later work with contractors and farmers.

Kaltved got into the engineering field as he was looking for work after serving in the Air Force.

“Math was not my favorite and drawing wasn’t my favorite,” he said.

Technology has made those aspects of the job easier.

“Survey crews used to have three people,” he said. “Now one person with the right instrument does the work.”

Kaltved said the county has gone through three survey vehicles during his tenure.

Bridge and road plans used to be drafted by hand.

His first title was bridge technician.

“I think that first year we built five bridges,” he said.

Kaltved said there are 66 bridges in the county, which is less than many other Iowa counties.

“When I went to state events, I never talked about our 66 bridges, because other counties had two or three hundred,” he said.

As an engineer, Kaltved has worked with several contractors and farmers over the years.

“I like working outdoors more than inside,” he said. “Ninety percent of the work is done outside.”

Computers obviously made a big difference.

“Before you had to calculate everything by hand, and know a little algebra which I wasn’t too good at,” he said.

Now, it’s a matter of simply inputting the correct data.

Concerning county roads, Emmet County has often installed asphalt, but has begun using more concrete like Palo Alto County.

Kaltved said concrete roads normally do better, but the heavier equipment is rough on roads.

“I think it was a big mistake to let the railroads go downhill,” he said, adding that the tracks can take the weight better than roads.

The heavy flooding in 1993 was a memorable time.

“Everybody wanted the water to go and there was nowhere for it to go,” Kaltved said.

The engineer’s office has had just three head engineers in Kaltved’s tenure-Stribley, Randy Schlei and Roger Patocka.

Kaltved won’t be sitting around after retirement.

The long-time president of the Emmet County Historical Society will continue his work at the county museum.

“I’ve been a volunteer person-always helping someone do something,” he said. “I’ve also always been interested in history.”

Kaltved was part of the county’s Bicentennial Committee in 1976.

Former historical secretary Ivadell Ross was worried that when she passed away whether someone would be there to take over the museum.

Kaltved stepped up to the plate.

Currently, the museum is constructing an addition and Kaltved and other volunteers are working to get that ready.

Who better to help get that job done.