Brenda Wade Schmidt
Trent native Bob Dickey likes to keep things working.
For decades, the 62-year-old has helped keep the town government going by serving on the board, made sure the water and sewer was functioning and repaired autos and farm machinery to keep them running. This week he retires from being a long-term city employee and will continue to work at his business, Dickey Service.
But he won’t abandon the town’s water and sewer system maintenance until someone new is trained for the job, he says. “I’m going to help the town until they fill their position. I’m not going to leave them high and dry,” he says. His official retirement was Jan. 8.
So far, the town hasn’t received any applications for the job that includes what Dickey does now plus other city services such as mowing and snow removal. It adds up to about 20 hours a week, said Jonathan Damm, president of the town board.
Dickey has been involved in everything that has happened in Trent for the past 40 years, providing strong working knowledge of Trent, Damm said.
“It’s definitely a great asset to have somebody that’s available around the clock that’s right here. That’s something that will be missed if we cannot replace that,” he said. “He’s kind of been the go-to guy for all of that time.”
Dickey was born in Flandreau, grew up on a farm just over two miles from Trent and moved into town 40 years ago. After attending Flandreau High School, he earned an automotive mechanics degree at vocational school in Pipestone, Minn.
When he turned 21, Trent leaders asked him to be on the town board, where he has served on and off all those years. The board just kept things running in town, he said, and rarely would any community members attend a council meeting. “It was fun. Everybody used to have just a blast. There were no big agenda items,” he said.
Most recently, he was president of the three-person board until a year ago when he resigned during a time in which board and community members were in conflict about various community projects, including the Trent Gym, the fire department and the swimming pool. Some residents lashed out at Dickey, who resigned. Community heat continued until board member Matt Larson resigned as well.
The council and Trent itself have changed. It used to be that Dickey knew everyone, but there are new people in town now. “There used to be some empty houses, and there isn’t any more,” he says.
There once were more businesses, but now that’s down to a handful, including his own.
In the small community, Dickey has worn several hats from mowing and snow removal to keeping up-to-date on annual training to run the water and sewer system. It’s time to be able to go on vacations without being on call, he says.
Dickey also is an honorary member of the fire department.
His business is one of two that his father, Dale, bought in the 1970s. He lives next door to his shop, and he and his wife of nearly 38 years, Pam, have raised four children: Melissa, Kelci, Lance and Doreen. All are married and live within an hour’s drive. Dickey enjoys riding side-by-sides with his family and friends.
In the past several years, Dickey has had some health issues, starting with his heart seven years ago and a cancer diagnosis three years ago that required treatment. It’s time to slow down, he says.
“I’m just ready to kick back and not worry about this when I go on vacation,” he says.
In the meantime, he plans to stay active in Trent and hasn’t ruled out running again for the town board. It’s a community that he loves because it has been home and resulted in a lot of memories.
“(I) Pretty much enjoyed all the peace and quiet and a lot of good people,” he says. “I’ve got a lot of very good friends.”