DAVENPORT — With one month to go before its longtime general manager retires, the Little Blue Natural Resources District continues to look for his successor.

At Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the LBNRD board of directors, Board Chairman Randy Uhrmacher of rural Hastings announced that the board had thought it had Mike Onnen’s replacement hired, only to learn a few days ago that the candidate would not be taking the job.

“Saturday I got notice he declined the position because his current employer had offered him a lot of incentives to stay,” Uhrmacher said.

Because of the delay, the board may not have a new general manager in place when Onnen takes his leave on Jan. 11.

The board discussed the situation in executive session during Tuesday’s meeting and briefed key staff members on the latest information.

Donnie Engelhardt, the district’s assistant manager, assured the board the district staff will continue its work even if there’s an extended vacancy in the general manager’s chair.

“I feel comfortable enough to step in if we have to figure something out,” Engelhardt said.

Onnen has served the Little Blue district since 1977 and has been the general manager since 1985. He announced last summer his intention to retire in mid January.

He and his wife, Nila, will be moving to Stanton in northeastern Nebraska to be nearer to family.

A retirement reception for Onnen is scheduled for 1-6 p.m. Jan. 10 in Davenport, where the district’s offices are located.

The Little Blue NRD encompasses all of Thayer County, most of Adams County, and portions of Webster, Clay, Nuckolls, Fillmore and Jefferson counties.

Tuesday’s monthly meeting was the final one for four departing board members: Uhrmacher, Ed Fleharty of Hastings, Matt Spencer of Blue Hill and Gene Thomas of Fairbury. All four were recognized for their service.

Thomas has served on the board since 1995. He did not seek re-election in 2018.

Toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, he exhorted his fellow directors to keep their eye on the ball in the years to come.

“Everybody just remember why you’re here and do the best you can, saving our water,” Thomas said.

Fleharty has served on the board since 2002 and has served in various capacities on the Executive Committee since 2007. He chose to retire from the board this year.

“Thanks for all the support from the staff over the years,”Fleharty said. “I hope things go well for you.”

Uhrmacher joined the board in 2011 and has served as chairman since 2016. Spencer served a single four-year term on the board. Both men were defeated in re-election bids.

New officers will be elected when the board reorganizes for the new year in January 2019. New members joining the board at that time will be Robert Trausch of Juniata, Warren Taylor of Glenvil, Zachary Hollister of Hastings and Bill Glenn of Fairbury.

Directors Kevin Kissinger of Glenvil, Warren Brakhahn of Hastings, Lyle Heinrichs of Shickley, Joe Hergott Sr. of Hebron and Marlin Kimle of Kenesaw all were re-elected and will begin fresh four-year terms in January.

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