The Daily Iowegian
---- — Joe Hollinrake of Albia was honored by the Iowa Rural Water Association when he was inducted into IRWA’s Hall of Fame for his contributions to rural water. Hollinrake, with Rathbun Regional Water Association, was presented this honor during the IRWA’s 39th annual conference held at the Veteran’s Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center Feb. 24-26 in Des Moines.
The award is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to IRWA either legislatively or in other capacities such as service to the IRWA board, and or active participation in IRWA committees and other functions.
“Receiving the Hall of Fame Award was really quite an honor,” Hollinrake said.
Hollinrake’s wife of 50 years, Jean, agreed.
“I’m very proud of Joe. He is 88 years old and has spent half of his life working with rural water in the area,” she said.
In the late 1960s Hollinrake, a lifelong resident of Monroe County, began working with other farmers from Monroe County to investigate bringing rural water to the area. This group of farmers formed the Monroe County Rural Water Board with Hollinrake as chairman of that board.
“We needed water,” said Hollinrake. “And our neighbors needed water. Back then, we had a shallow well and we were buying water from Albia.”
“We were raising eight kids and were always running out on the weekends,” Jean said.
The Monroe County Board began correspondence with the Appanoose, Wayne and Lucas County Rural Water Boards and by the end of 1972, the four boards resolved to participate in the construction of one treatment plant, utilizing Rathbun Lake as its water source. They eventually organized a private non-profit entity known as Rathbun Regional Water Association, Inc.
The chairman of each of the four county boards became board members for RRWA and Hollinrake began his tenure on the board of directors of RRWA. This idea quickly grew to a $25 million dollar project funded by the Farmer’s Home Administration and the Economic Development Administration. Construction on the water treatment plant began in the spring of 1975 and they distributed water from the plant in 1977.
Through Hollinrake’s tenure on the board he has witnessed RRWA develop from four counties to all or parts of 17 counties in Iowa and four counties in Missouri as well as nine wastewater systems. RRWA currently has more than 19,000 members and employs 60 people.
“Rathbun Regional Water Association has a wonderful manager in John Glenn. They are always looking for new ways to make sure everyone has water,” Hollinrake said. “You can see the pride around the plant grounds and around all the water towers that are always cleaned up.”
Hollinrake became chairman of the board in 1994 and to date still holds that position. In 1998, with guidance from the board, RRWA underwent a treatment plant expansion which doubled the capacity of the original plant to eight million gallons of water per day to meet current and future needs. With the rapid growth of new customers and the need for additional employees, the board voted to expand the office space in 2003 and a new board room was constructed along with additional offices and meeting rooms.
Hollinrake says much has changed over the years.
“The new treatment plant is just marvelous and it’s been exciting to see new towers go up.”
But he says one thing stays the same.
“When someone gets a new hookup from Rathbun, I never get any complaints.”
The new board room was dedicated and named for Joe Hollinrake, chairman of the board. In 2007, the board began discussions with staff regarding the need for additional capacity in treating water. The second treatment plant and lake intake, west of the original plant was completed in 2013. Following the completion of this second treatment plant, Hollinrake decided not to submit his name for re-election to the board later this month and will retire from his position after serving on the board for more than 42 years, with 20 of those years as chairman. The Hollinrakes have five sons, three daughters and many grandchildren.