A jack of all trades is retiring

Terry Call wears many hats for Allen County, but he’ll hang them up next week when he retires. A retirement reception is planned from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday at the courthouse.

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March 11, 2022 - 12:00 AM

Terry Call wears a lot of hats for Allen County. He’s the planning and zoning administrator, handles the mapping services for the appraiser’s office, and the EMS billing, among other responsibilities. He will retire next week. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Terry Call wears many hats for Allen County, but he’ll hang them up next week when he retires.

It’s not easy to describe all of his job responsibilities.

“Jack of all trades” might fit. 

“My attitude is, if someone else can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t do it,” Call explained.

That attitude has led to a multitude of titles and activities for Call, who is retiring next week after working for Allen County since 2006.

He’s the planning and zoning administrator. He’s the EMS Financial Officer and the GIS Coordinator, in charge of digital mapping services for the appraiser’s office. He also livestreams the weekly commission meetings on the county’s Facebook page.

If someone needs an inspection for a building permit, Call will get it done as quickly as possible. Even on weekends. Even on a Sunday.

“I used to do construction, so I know if you’ve got a hole dug and there’s weather coming, you need to get it done or you’ve got a big mess,” he said. 

Over the years, Call has worked in construction and helped with carpentry and remodel projects for the county, including at the dispatch center, courtroom and other buildings.

One day, back when his office was located at the sheriff’s department, he noticed a large conveyor-belt toaster had been discarded. One of the jailers told him it had quit working. A replacement would cost roughly $1,800.

“Do you mind if I take a look at it?” Call asked.

He tore it apart and found the problem was a switch that could be replaced for $7. Better yet, it worked.

“So I just do stuff like that,” Call said with a casual shrug.

His favorite project, though, was helping to build the community garden for the SAFE BASE after-school program.

Former sheriff and former county commissioner Tom Williams asked if he would be interested in helping.

They built raised planter beds and a greenhouse, and installed a fence around the property. 

“I just really enjoyed doing that,” he said. 

He also has fond memories of another SAFE BASE project, planting trees on the courthouse lawn. Many old trees on the courthouse lawn had been lost, so Westar provided about 40 trees to replace them. 

Call and others dug the holes, then helped local children plant the trees. 

CALL has enjoyed carpentry work as a hobby for most of his life.

From 1985 until 1992, he worked for the Iola Fire Department as a firefighter and EMT. Then, he did bridge construction for about 13 years.

A back injury forced him to reconsider his occupation.

At about the same time, the county needed someone in the ambulance department who could handle medical billing and assist the emergency manager. Call was familiar with ambulance reports, so he thought it would be a good fit.

Then, he learned of a need to convert the county’s maps to a digital format. The maps had been drawn by hand up until that point. They needed to be digitized as part of an upgrade for emergency 911 services.

“They bought me a software package and said, ‘Good luck,’” Call recalled.

When former county counselor Alan Weber needed someone to help with his duties, Call stepped up to help. When Weber retired, Call took over as planning and zoning administrator.

“That’s about all of my job responsibilities at the moment. Anything they ask, I try to do it,” Call said. 

“There were days I’d think, this is too much. But it always worked itself out.”

He likes to handle jobs as they come. By the end of the week, he doesn’t want to leave anything sitting unfinished on his desk.

“If you put it aside, it’s too easy to forget.”

Finding someone to take Call’s place hasn’t been easy.

“When I announced I was going to retire, they weren’t sure how to post the position.”

The county decided to contract with a medical billing company for its ambulance service. The company already provides the software for the billing program, so it’s been an easy transition for that portion of his responsibilities.

Call said the medical billing amounted to about one-third of his duties.  

Commission Chairman Jerry Daniels said the county is still searching for someone to take over the planning and zoning duties, as well as some of Call’s other responsibilities. For now, his work will be spread to other county employees. 

“He wears many hats. He’s a wealth of experience and he will be missed,” Daniels said. “Hopefully, we can find someone to fit that special position.”

CALL said he’s especially grateful for the support of county commissioners.

Over the years, he’s worked with a total of 12 commissioners. When he first started working for the county, commissioners included Kent Thompson, Walt Regehr and Dick Works.

“After about a year into the job, they started trusting me,” he said. “They saw I was reliable and started giving me more leeway and more duties.”

He had a good working relationship with Bill King, who served as public works director for 23 years and then as a county commissioner. King was always “a good guy to have in your corner,” Call said. 

“It’s been a privilege to work with different commissioners over the years. They’ve been great,” he said. 

Since he announced his intention to retire, most everyone Call encounters asks the same question: “What are you going to do now?”

His answer: “Whatever I want.”

His wife, Susie, has been retired for nine years and has been patiently waiting for him to do the same.

They have three children, Eric Call, Kelly King and Kyle King. Eric lives on the East Coast, and they haven’t been able to see him or his family much since the COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago. The Calls hope to change that.

Call also hopes he will have time to travel.

Whatever he does, he plans to keep busy.

“The biggest thing that bothers me is boredom. That’s the reason I took on all these other jobs,” he said. 

“I don’t like being bored, at all.”

A RETIREMENT reception for Call will be from 2 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, at the courthouse.

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