Two long-time City of Nelson veterans are moving on to new pastures, albeit different ones, and far, far apart.
Mike Amos is looking forward to the laid back life of a proud grandpa. Bernie Zimmer is headed for Christchurch, New Zealand — a beautiful city rebuilding after an earthquake in 2011 and a one-in-100-year flood earlier this year.
When Zimmer retired from his job as the city’s chief building inspector, he’d been serving his community for almost 26 years. Hired as a carpenter when Nelson was on the verge of hosting the 1989 BC Winter Games, he worked his way into building inspection, a full-time role by 1990.
From small projects to big community efforts like the Nelson and District Community Complex expansion, additions to Kootenay Lake Hospital and business development like the Wholesale Club, Zimmer enjoyed his connection to the public.
“I liked being part of the building process with residents and contractors as they embarked on their projects, be it a small renovation, an addition, a new home or a large commercial project,” says Zimmer. “Every day there was a new challenge or a problem to solve and it was very satisfying when those issues were mutually resolved.”
Sometimes that mutual resolution was unexpected. Zimmer remembers a deck project proceeding without papers.
“It was pouring rain and three very wet fellows were working on it,” he recalls. “I told them I had to post a stop work order. When I did, one of them gave me a big hug and said ‘Thank you very much,’ apparently happy to have an excuse to not work in the rain.”
With the challenges and camaraderie now fond memories, Zimmer is embracing retirement, having hit Whitewater’s slopes all winter. Now the local man known for his smile and fairness is heading far from his Kootenay home to use his honed skills to help another community in need — New Zealand’s second largest city.
Amos’s retired life of volunteering at his grandchildren’s school, working on home projects and daily walks is a far cry from early days at his Nelson Hydro post. Back then, when staff was so frequently needed on site to check the old-school generating units, Amos simply made his bed right at the power plant.
“During Mike’s career with the city, he oversaw the period of time during which the power plant was automated and staff no longer needed to live on site,” smiles Alex Love, Nelson Hydro general manager. “Considering that Mike’s career spanned more than one quarter of the 118-year history of Nelson Hydro, it’s no wonder he’s a permanent piece of the utility’s history.”
In his 30-plus year career with Nelson Hydro, Amos worked on the downtown voltage conversion project, the Granite terminal, Rosemont substation and generator five installations. Holding five different titles, the last nine years of his career were spent as operations manager. For Amos, staying on budget meant keeping a lean, efficient and organized crew.
“I enjoyed the variety of work immensely,” says Amos. “From traffic signals to building electrical maintenance, to revenue metering, to generator maintenance, to substation maintenance, to computer control systems, to new station construction, to power line construction, we did it all.”
From power lines to guitar strings, Amos’ focus is on family and his love of music.
Although they’re headed in very different directions, he and Zimmer both sing the song of two men happy to have more time for loved ones and new adventures, both with long, successful careers well worth recollecting.