MORRIS – Jim Lutz promises last year’s record flood, tornado and arctic onslaught did not impact his decision to retire from his post as Grundy County’s Emergency Management Agency director.
“This year certainly hasn’t been a picnic,” he joked. “But that isn’t why I’m leaving.”
Lutz will be retiring at the end of this month, when he would have been reappointed, after 34 years serving as the county’s EMA director.
In his time with the county, Lutz has weathered some of the worst emergencies in Grundy County history and has helped maintain order through them all.
“A lot of what I do is getting nervous every time the [emergency alerts] go off,” he said.
He got his start with the county in 1969 as the volunteer supervisor of the county’s weather program, before becoming deputy director of the EMA in 1980. By 1984, he was promoted to director.
“I’ve always been interested in climatology,” Lutz said. “I was running my own little weather station at my house, just keeping track of the weather and it just blossomed from there.”
As the director, Lutz is in charge of coordinating emergency responses to ensure the safety of Grundy County residents during times of emergency, and advancing mitigation projects to help restore order to disaster areas.
Most of the county’s emergency plans have been written or edited by Lutz.
“He’s well-thought-of throughout the state, among other emergency management agencies,” Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said. “He’s one of the best we have at reporting and writing up reports.”
The current deputy director of the EMA, Joe Schroeder, was tentatively approved to fill Lutz’s position at a recent EMA Committee meeting. Schroeder’s appointment as director awaits passage from the full County Board at next month’s meeting.
Schroeder was Lutz’s deputy director for the last six years and the EMA Committee felt he had adequate training to take over the department, Severson said.
Lutz’s retirement was somewhat unexpected. Before this year, he said he had no intention of leaving the county.
“In all honesty, this all happened very rapidly,” Lutz said. “Everybody talks about retirement, but I was looking at another five or six years.”
He made the decision to retire after realizing he wanted to spend more time with his grandkids and less time at work.
“Nobody on their deathbed looks back and says, ‘I really wish I would’ve worked more,’” he said.