New public works and parks director knows his way around HudsonNobody will need to give Hudson’s new public works and parks director a tour of the city. Tom Zeuli knows it like his back yard. He’s lived here nearly his entire life and is a 30-year veteran of the city’s Public Works Department.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Nobody will need to give Hudson’s new public works and parks director a tour of the city.
Tom Zeuli knows it like his back yard.
He’s lived here his entire life (except for a short time away to attend technical college) and is a 30-year veteran of the city’s Public Works Department. There isn’t a street or neighborhood in the city that he hasn’t played a part in building or maintaining.
Last week, the Hudson City Council rewarded Zeuli for his dedication by naming him director of the Public Works Department, which now is also responsible for the city’s parks.
Zeuli, 55, has welcomed the challenge.
“I just love Hudson,” he said, explaining the pride he takes in maintaining the city’s infrastructure.
His new job won’t be that different from his old job. Zeuli has been heading up the Public Works Department as its lead man since the departure of former director Jim Eulberg in the spring of 2007.
The City Council decided earlier this year that it was time to fill the director position, but put it off, apparently to save money.
Other city department heads requested the action saying their workloads were increasing because of the vacancy in the Public Works Department. The City Council also was advised that it wasn’t appropriate to have a union member supervising other union members.
Zeuli remained in the public works employee union in his role as lead man. He left the union when he was named public works and parks director.
In a conversation with the Star-Observer last week, Zeuli said his relationship with department employees as public works and parks director won’t be much different from when he was the department’s lead man.
He doesn’t expect to have to crack the whip. The city’s nine full-time public works and parks employees are knowledgeable and hard-working, he said.
Zeuli said the biggest challenge his department faces in maintaining the city’s infrastructure is budgetary constraints.
He added that taking over leadership of the Public Works Department has given him a better understanding of why projects are sometimes delayed. He understands that the City Council needs to balance street projects and other infrastructure needs against the public’s desire to keep property taxes affordable, he said.
Deep Hudson roots
Zeuli’s home at the corner of 10th and Fillmore streets is the one he grew up in. His father, Anthony, began its construction in 1953 — the year Tom was born.
The high school is located on land that was farmed by Zeuli’s maternal grandfather, Henry Brewer. The farmhouse stood next to a clump of lilac bushes along Vine Street that to Zeuli is a landmark.
His father operated Zeuli’s Dray Line, a trucking company that specialized in refuse hauling. Anthony Zeuli also partnered with Norman Gilbert to begin Valley Cartage, which remains a successful Hudson-based trucking company.
After graduating from Hudson High School in 1971, Zeuli attended Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire for a year, where he learned to weld and do sheet metal work.
He then went to work at the new De Laval Separator plant on O’Keefe Road in Hudson. The maker of food and dairy process systems later was known as Niro Inc. It’s now GEA Process Engineering Inc.
Zeuli’s enjoyment of the outdoors motivated him to apply for an opening in the city’s Parks Department in the summer of 1978.
He was hired by then parks supervisor Joe Halverson and public works director Tom O’Keefe.
As a parks employee, he also learned to plow snow and helped out with storm sewer and street maintenance.
He moved to the street department in 1980 and, along with Brent Jensen, did all of the city’s sidewalk replacement work for many years.
In 1994, he was put in charge of inspecting trees for Dutch elm disease and promoted to assistant street inspector. Three years later, he was named the Public Works Department’s lead man.
Zeuli also is 30-year veteran of the Hudson Fire Department, having joined the department when he was hired by the city.
He said he enjoys everything about living in Hudson, from the high school sporting events to plays at The Phipps Center of the Arts to concerts in Lakefront Park.
“I take pride in the community,” he said.
Zeuli and his wife, Barbara, have two grown sons, Brian and Aaron, and two grandsons. All of their offspring are Hudson residents, too.