SWCD bids farewell to Morrison

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rick Morrison, Mower SWCD’s engineering technician is retiring after 17 years. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

A 17-year employee at many organization would be hard to replace, and that’s why the Mower Soil and Water Conservation District has big shoes to fill.

Rick Morrison, Mower SWCD’s engineering technician, told the organization nearly a year ago he would retire in March 2011. The amount of forewarning was a good thing for SWCD because Morrison’s responsibilities outweigh his title.

Or as Morrison puts it: “I kind of wear several hats here.”

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Aside from engineering tech, he’s the county drain inspector, county ag inspector and somewhat of a spokesperson for conservation projects in Mower. But March 30, Morrison passes his duties on to his replacement, who’s been training for roughly six months.

When Bev Nordby, SWCD District Manager heard about Morrison’s plans, she began searching for someone who could grasp all the concepts Morrison knows.

“It’s incredible, the knowledge that he (Morrison) has in putting conservation practices on the land and also doing drainage practices,” Nordby said.

“It’s going to be hard to replace.”

Morrison’s knowledge grew from his agricultural experience.

“I grew up on a farm, so i know a lot about agriculture,” Morrison said. “And that’s what I like to work with the best.”

He then worked at Hormel for many years, until he went back to school at Riverland Community College.

“I was going to school for something else, and I just heard about this job out here,” Morrison said.

Soon after he heard about the position, Nordby hired him part time. Morrison distributed trees as one of his first tasks, something SWCD does every year. However, he quickly got into many of the advanced things he’s done until now, such as land surveys, ditch designs, catch basins and terraces.

For the past 17 years, Morrison has seen steady advancements in technology and conservation practices. Now, he said advancements are just getting to the point where they’re turning the corner, and results are becoming visible.

But Morrison realizes significant improvements to soil and water lie in the future.

“There’s a lot to be done, but we’re getting a good handle on things and where we have to go with this,” he said about conservation.

Although his departure may seem untimely, considering some innovative projects Morrison works with, such as two-stage ditches and bio-reactors, he’s ready for other projects at home and with his family. And as a 46-year veteran of the workforce, he’s earned retirement. He’s not slowing down, though.

“I want to stay busy in retirement — I really do,” he said. Although he mentioned fishing and camping, Morrison plans to continue serving as conservationist, whether it be at home, helping the community or serving on a soil and water board.

SWCD hopes its new engineering tech, Cody Fox, will reach Morrison’s level some day.

“With everything I’ve been doing in the past — engineering, drainage and ag inspection … He won’t be bored, that’s for sure,” Morrison said.

To honor Morrison for his progress and years of service, SWCD is holding a retirement party for Morrison 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, at the Mower SWCD building in Austin.