When Mark Jones took a job in wastewater in his hometown of Osceola, he knew it was more than just a job.” It was a career,” he said.
Today, Jones — who has lived in Nevada a little over nine years — took another big step in his career by joining the City of Nevada’s staff as Superintendent of the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
He comes to his new job from employment with the City of Ames, where he was a wastewater operator at the Water Pollution Control Facility, a position he’s held since late in 2011.
“I got into wastewater in September of 1997,” said the 1990 graduate of Clarke Community Schools about taking a job as a lab tech/operator for the City of Osceola. “I did that for 14 years and four months. There was a lot of on-the-job training and a lot of daytime classes and home studies. I have about 650 hours of continuing education to date.”
Jones obtained a State of Iowa DNR Grade 2 Wastewater Treatment license while working for the City of Osceola. He obtained his Grade 3 license while working for the City of Ames, and is currently studying to upgrade to his Grade 4 license.
The man who first hired Jones at Osceola, Jim McElvogue, became Jones’ mentor for his first year of employment. Then McElvogue left Osceola to work in Perry. But eventually, McElvogue ended up working for the City of Ames as Superintendent of Water Pollution Control.
Jones was happy to reconnect with his mentor in Ames. “I had the privilege of working with him again until he retired last year.”
Jones loves the environmental aspect of working in the wastewater field. “The fact that we can take any type of water waste, clean it up, and give it back to Mother Nature better than it was … is fascinating,” he said. “The processes that I’ve worked with are all physical and biological treatments.”
With Nevada in the midst of building a new wastewater plant at this time, Jones knows there is a lot of work ahead. He admits he has a lot to learn because Nevada’s new plant will have the most modern technology available to treat wastewater.
“They’re forever developing new types of treatment, and it’s still fascinating to me to keep up with this kind of stuff,” Jones said.
He said the new Nevada plant would use a different kind of biology. “We’re going from the trickling filter treatment — which I call a ‘good bugs eat bad bugs’ process, to an oxidation ditch that is an activated sludge treatment. I’ve only read and learned it in books right now, so this will be an ongoing learning process for me. But I’m excited.”
As he learns all there is to know about how the new Nevada plant will operate, Jones brings with him years of experience that has taught him, most importantly, not to make “snap decisions.”
He’s proud, he said, to have learned at two great plants. Osceola’s plant was built in 1974, and “they’re actually building a new plant there as well right now,” he said. Jones noted that the Ames plant is award-winning, having the second-longest run in the nation without any permit violations. “Ames’ plant first went online in 1989, and it has the trickling filter towers, like Nevada has at its current plant.”
As he considers his goals for this new Nevada position, Jones said, “first and foremost, I want to get comfortable and acclimated and get past the ‘new guy’ stage.”
But, as the “new guy,” he has appreciated how, so far, all of the Nevada City staff has been very welcoming to him. He’s especially happy to be joining two wastewater staff members, Harold See and Jayson Kingsbury. “I’m going to let them teach me the existing plant. And then, together, we’ll work through what needs to be done (to prepare for the new plant).”
When it comes to his personal life, Jones has a lot of excitement on that front too. He is engaged to Jennifer Montgomery, a 1992 Nevada High School graduate. Jennifer works from their shared home in customer service.
Jones also has three sons: Tanner, a 2016 graduate of Nevada High School who works at Burke Corporation in wastewater treatment and is also a state-certified police officer; Corbin, a 2019 graduate of Nevada High School who works for Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company out of Ames and is also a Nevada firefighter; and Logan, a sophomore at Nevada High School, who is a seasonal employee at Center Grove Orchard near Cambridge.
In his free time, Jones loves touring on his 2012 Victory Cross Country motorcycle and loves fishing and turkey hunting. He’s very much an outdoorsman.
Jones said he enjoys living in Nevada and looks forward to working in Nevada as well. “Nevada reminds me of my hometown… I can, in so many ways, find apples to apples comparisons to what I grew up with in Osceola. I love the small-town feel and how it feels like home.”
–Written by Marlys Barker, City of Nevada