For 24 years, Lori Gerard was a familiar face at City Hall. She was hired as a part-time worker with the City of Lowell in January 1999 and eventually became deputy treasurer for the community. She also served as secretary for the Downtown Historic District Commission.
You won’t see Gerard at City Hall now, though. At the end of January, she said her good-byes and retired from what she says was a “perfect” job with fantastic co-workers.
“It’s been a lot of fun for 24 years,” Gerard says, noting that she finds herself missing her co-workers at times. “I love the people I worked with.”
And the feeling has been mutual. Police Chief Chris Hurst describes Gerard as a “saint” with a “heart of gold.”
While she won’t be a daily presence in the city offices, Gerard isn’t going anywhere and remains a member of the Lowell community.
Witness to a Changing City
Prior to working for the city, Gerard was employed as a teller at a local bank, but that job wasn’t ideal for a mom with young children. “I didn’t like working Saturdays,” she notes.
When a position for a part-time receptionist opened at City Hall, she was initially drawn by its great hours. As a city resident, she could drop kids off at school and still make it to work on time. “It was perfect,” according to Gerard.
At that time, Dave Pasquale was city manager, and City Hall had not yet been renovated. Gerard recalls working in a cramped space where she could practically reach out and touch her co-worker. Then, the staff moved to temporary offices in the Huntington Bank building while City Hall was being restored and expanded.
It wasn’t just City Hall that changed during her tenure either. “When I started, there were a lot of empty storefronts downtown,” she remembers. Since then, the community has grown, business space has filled and many people have discovered all the things that make Lowell special.
“It’s a nice commute to Grand Rapids, but it has that family feel that people want,” Gerard says.
Among the memorable experiences she had as a city worker was the 2013 flood which brought water all the way up to the steps of City Hall. Between volunteers filling sandbags and city officials watching whether water would reach a substation and require power to be shut off to the east side of town, “there was a lot going on at that time,” she remembers.
But while the city has changed, she says the caring nature of residents has stayed the same. “People care about each other in our community,” Gerard says. “It’s nice being a part of that.”
Lifelong Friendships Forged at Work
There are five workers in the offices at Lowell City Hall, and people who are hired into positions there tend to stay for long periods of time. As a result, Gerard counts her co-workers among some of her closest friends.
“We’ve watched our kids go through graduations and weddings and now grandkids,” Gerard says. If there is anything she misses in retirement, it’s that camaraderie.
Now retired, Gerard looks forward to traveling with her husband – the two recently returned from a short trip to Florida – and spending time with her three adult children and their families, which include five grandchildren. Gerard is also volunteering at Ability Weavers downtown.
As for the position she left behind, she has no worries that the city will continue to be served well with her replacement, Jenell Veltkamp. “She is great,” Gerard says. “I feel like the city did really well by hiring her.”
Lori Gerard has long been part of the fabric of Lowell, and we wish her the best for a long and happy retirement. Thank you Lori!