The municipal family came together to wish Joe Kelley a happy retirement.

Employees of the City of La Junta and their spouses gathered at the La Junta Senior Center on Thursday afternoon to say good-bye to former Director of Water and Wastewater Joe Kelley. Kelley has been with the city since 1992.

At that time, Don Rizzuto was mayor. According to Rick Klein, Rizzuto once said to Kelley, “If the pumps went out, how would you get the water to the people?”

Kelley replied, deadpan, “I guess I’d just have to take it in buckets.”

Once, during an electrical outage of several hours in the summertime, Kelley saw people watering their lawns. He was stunned. “Don’t water your lawn when the lights are out,” he said. “The water isn’t being pumped, and if the pipes get empty, they will collapse.”

Kelley and his crew saved the day for Rocky Ford when their water shut off on Christmas Eve one year. He has stockpiled equipment to be able to handle emergencies in our immediate area. He also initiated the program and bought the equipment necessary for inserting liners into water mains for repair work, thus avoiding outages.

“I’ve just been following what the people before me told me had to be done,” he said at one meeting, “but now I guess we’re starting on something new.” The new waste water plant was necessitated by the old plant breaking down piece by piece and by the Environmental Protection Agency’s increasingly stringent requirements.

We will miss Joe Kelley. He told the truth, no matter the consequences.