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Face Time with Joel Maurer

Joel Maurer, retiring city engineer and a member of Good News! Men's Quartet, is seen Tuesday in DeKalb.
Joel Maurer, retiring city engineer and a member of Good News! Men's Quartet, is seen Tuesday in DeKalb.

DeKALB – On Nov. 30, DeKalb City Engineer Joel Maurer will retire after a 37-year career working with municipalities.

But even with his vacation plans to warmer climates and America’s national parks, Maurer, who also is the city’s assistant director of public works, will still be around.

Maurer is a member of the Good News Quartet, where he and his fellow singers are often asked to perform songs such as “Halleujah” at retirement centers and community outings.

Q: What’s changed the most? I imagine a lot has changed since DeKalb since 1985. But what’s the biggest change to you?

A: For me, as I walked in in November of 1985. We did drafting on drafting boards and mylar projectors. We’d project our plans and a lot of the drafting would occur with cartography people that were specialized and did lettering, use various instruments to get the job done. In the early 1990s, we started moving toward computer-aided drafting. And that really changed how we presented plans and got them out to bid.

Q: If you had to look back and highlight something as one of your achievements, what would it be? Is there a particular project that sticks out to you?

A: The Annie Glidden Road improvements we saw going from Route 38 south to the tollway, was a challenging project seven to eight years in length. We started with streetscape-type view of how the road could look, had various public hearings, had consultants hired to assist us on some ideas upgrading Annie Glidden Road what was a two-lane road ... to a four-lane road. ... A very intense project with a lot of public input, stops and starts with funding.

I’ve been real pleased with my career as I’ve been involved with those and gotten those improved in a timely fashion that supports the community.

Q: What do you think is the coolest vehicle the city of DeKalb has?

A: That’s a hard question. Probably 15 years ago when it was first delivered was the big ladder truck with the fire department. ... Otherwise some of the heavy equipment we use for street operations. Some of the huge snow plows we use on staff ... those are incredibly detailed vehicles that require a lot of attention when driving. I’ve personally been in the cab one time driving, and that was probably enough for me.

Q: What was that like?

A: That was very interesting to see how the drivers we put out on the street have to manage and control the vehicle ... how to time the discharges through the cab.

Q: Is it harder than it looks?

A: I think it is. Of course we have a very experienced staff of drivers and they’re very good at it.

Q: So what are your future plans? What’s the first you plan to do Dec. 1?

A: I hope to do some travel, maybe in the winter ... to warmer climates. ... Part -time work is still out there. I’m thinking I could do some work through a consulting agency. My travel plans during warmer months of the year would be to go to national parks and do hiking, enjoy the countryside. ... Other than that, I plan to enjoy my hobbies. I actually sing with a men’s quartet group, gospel singing and just enjoy some of the fun we have doing that, being invited into churches, retirement centers, and community outings where we would sing and perform and have a good time like that.

Q: How did you first get involved with that?

A: Through my church choir. I am a member of the Sycamore United Methodist Church. A friend had suggested, well, let’s get members of the church choir together as a men’s quartet, see how we sound. ... We got noticed in our church. And we went outside a little bit, being asked to entertain in retirement homes. Most of those were in Sycamore and DeKalb. We got noticed to go elsewhere. So it’s been fun, for about seven years now.

Q: What do you sing?

A: Secular, gospel-type stuff. Uplifting and good-message songs for anyone listening.

Q: If your quartet were to somehow become internationally famous, what do you think your reputation in the group would be?

A: I’m a baritone, I don’t know if I’d really stick out. I don’t have that solo-type voice. We would just have fun as a group.

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