EMPTY NEST, by Curt Swarm

From immigrant to mayor


On July 11 of this year it will be 60 years since Hans Trousil of West Burlington immigrated from Germany to the United States.  It was 1964, he was 11 years old and in the 6th grade.  He had taken two years of English in Germany, but it was the Queen's English, where semi trucks are lorries, the water cooler is a bubbler, and the bathroom is a water closet.  So he had some adjusting to do, for a lifetime, actually, as he is still learning new words. 
His aunt and uncle had immigrated to the United States first.  Hans' father was a flight engineer and mechanic for Lufthansa Airlines.  He had spent some time in Seattle working and learning about the new Boeing 707.  He was a top notch mechanic and Volkswagen of America sponsored him and his family, and soon had him located in Burlington, Iowa at their new Volkswagen Dealership.  To this day Hans still drives a VW. 
The year before they immigrated, on November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  Hans will never forget his mother running up the stairway to his bedroom, crying, thinking that their immigration would be suspended.  Fortunately, immigration was not affected.
At 16, Hans had his first job.  He worked at McDonald's on Roosevelt Avenue in Burlington.  Because he had good math grades in school, he was put on the cash register where he knew how to count change back to customers. 
He married his high school sweetheart, Debbie (Deb), who had been Homecoming Queen twice—junior high and high school.  She went on to become a nurse, graduating from the first nurses' training class at Southeastern Community College (SCC).  The class is having its 50th Anniversary this summer.  Deb worked at the hospital for 42 years, and was the school nurse for 25.  Hans worked at a gas station and then J.I. Case for 30 years.
In a round about way, it was because Deb was a nurse that led Hans to the West Burlington City Council.  Nurses wore white uniforms.  Doing laundry, one of her uniforms was ruined because of West Burlington's rusty water.  Hans was a volunteer on the WB Fire Department.  He was well aware of the problem of filling fire engines with rusty, scaly water.  He took Deb's stained uniform to City Hall and asked, politely, if anything was being done to correct the water problem.  He was told there was not, but it was suggested that he run for City Council.  Hans did and was elected to the city council on November 4, 1985.  The mayor immediately appointed Hans as Utilities Committee Chair where he began addressing and remedying the water quality problem.
After two years on the City Council, Hans ran for mayor.  He was defeated, but two years later, he ran again and won.  He was mayor of West Burlington for 28 years.  Mike Sweet, a well known former reporter and columnist for The Hawkeye asked Hans why he wanted to be mayor.  Hans thought about it and said, “Mike, I just wanna be mayor.”
Hans was one of the first West Burlington Volunteer Firemen to become an EMT.  While on the department, three events stand out: two of Hans' buddies, who were neighbors and had families, were killed in a structure fire.  The Burlington Northern RR Shop burned, and the ADM Elevator exploded.
When Hans left his house for the BN Shop fire, he thought he could feel heat on his back.  When he got to the fire station and pulled out with a fire engine, the whole sky to his left was orange.  He knew it was going to be a long night.
At 71, Hans Trousil looks back on his life and service to the community.  Being mayor he was on the Executive Board of the Regional Planning Committee and League of Cities, and was a member of the Solid Waste Commission, and Emergency Management.  He presented Mayor's Awards to outstanding community volunteers.  He's still involved in Regional Planning with Great River Housing where they restore houses in a four-county area, and build new ones.
With three children of their own: Andrea, Brian and Brandon, Hans and Deb found time to host five foreign exchange students.  They are all doing well.  Hans and Deb are leaving for Savannah, Georgia soon to visit son, Brandon.  Hans and Deb have seven grandchildren.  Hans still has a hard time not saying they are leaving for “holiday.” 
BTW: Hans became a citizen in 1972.  He thinks every high school student should take the Citizenship Test: Who is the governor?  Who are the representatives and senators?  How many states are there?  What form of government do we have?  What are the three branches of government? 
Hans is right.  We should all be more informed about how our government works, i.e., what is TIF and how is it used? 
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, or email him curtswarm@yahoo.com.  Curt is available for public speaking.

commentary, area, region, Hans Trousil, West Burlington, Mayor, service, community, Curt Swarm, Empty Nest, editorial, Opinion, Pen City Current, monday,


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