A lifetime of service: McGinn receives Municipal Hero Award
September 15, 2016
Respect is an ethereal thing. Merriam-Webster’s tells us it means, “to consider worthy of high regard: esteem.” But even that explanation doesn’t really do the concept justice. But to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, you know it when you see it.
When you see the citizens of Grand Lake interact with the Town’s Public Works Director, Bernie McGinn, you can see how evident their respect is for a man who has dedicated nearly four decades of his life to looking after the community. McGinn was recently recognized with the Colorado Municipal League’s Municipal Hero of 2016 Award; a feather in the cap for a humble and effusive man who typically prefers to have others in the limelight.
McGinn’s boss, Grand Lake Town Manager Jim White, nominated McGinn for the award. In his nomination letter White states, “He demonstrates consistent commitment to citizens and visitors… He is self effacing, devoutly religious, and always willing to help… He does a lot of extra work and is a steady hand at the helm of the Public Works Department. He has earned the respect of co-workers, citizens, visitors, elected officials, and other entities and the general public. He is always there when the need arises.”
McGinn first began working for the Town of Grand Lake in 1979 after moving to the high country with his brother’s family. Born and raised in Iowa McGinn served four-years in the US Navy including a one-year stint in Vietnam that ended in 1972. After exiting the war zone McGinn bounced around Texas and Colo. for a few years before settling down in the Rockies. After heading up and over Berthoud Pass for the first time McGinn said he had found his home.
He began working for the Town of Grand Lake in 1979 as a part-time Maintenance Worker. Shortly thereafter he became a Heavy Equipment Operator for the Town and in 1997 was promoted to his current position as Public Works Director.
Over his 37-years in the community McGinn has seen Grand Lake transform. He noted the invasion of pine beetles, and the resulting dead pine trees, as one of the most striking changes the community has witnessed during his tenure. He also highlighted the massive public works and capital improvement project the town undertook in the 1990s as a transformative period.
McGinn says he is excited about the potential for a new large-scale public works project that has been proposed for the town this year. “I think we can do some things that we would eventually get around to, but would take quite a few years.”
But regardless of how this November’s ballot measure shakes out McGinn loves his home. “It is a beautiful place to live,” McGinn said. “It can be tough at times. There are always ups and downs, that is just part of our location. We are kind of like a little cul-de-sac at the end of a 16-mile road. It is a blessing having to yourself, it really is, but it also makes it a bit harder.”
McGinn says the most rewarding aspect of his job is his service to the community. “It took me a few years of working for the town to figure out what that (service) was really about. It is very rewarding to serve people and try to help as best you can. You go to work every day and get lucky if you get things right. Sometimes you do get it right. I’m just trying to make the town the best I can.”
McGinn says he is often amazed at the appreciation he receives from community members and visitors about relatively small things he does, like trimming trees, filling potholes and (of course) plowing roads, which he said is among his favorite official duties.
McGinn is a devoutly religious man who is happy to talk at length about his Catholic faith with those who are interested. He is a member of St. Ann’s in Grand Lake.
Currently 66-years old McGinn says he hopes to make it to 70 before retirement, “if my health and body hold up.”
“I’ve had an unbelievably great run,” he said. “Never in my life would I have thought I would come to a place I’ve never seen and it would become home. My life has been unbelievably good. I wish everyone had what I have. It is a great place, a great community.”