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Ten questions: Tom Beyer

One of Watertown’s more distinguished businessmen enjoys a good day fishing so much so that he is one of the founders of the Rock River Rescue, an organization formed in 2001 to save the Rock River in Watertown.

The Rock River Rescue Foundation was founded to improve the aquatic ecosystem of the river within the city limits. Funds raised are used for fish stocking, habitat improvement, education and handicap access to the river.

“When I was young, I had a conversation with my fishing buddies that centered around how nice it would be to go to the river and catch something other than carp,” Beyer said. In 2001, he went to a local bait shop and raised the same question. But this time, Beyer and six other life-long Watertown residents who wanted their children, grandchildren and others to experience and enjoy the river, took action.

They formed the foundation to raise money for carp removal, fish stocking to introduce predators of carp, habitat improvement to increase the numbers of beneficial fish species and provide handicap accessible piers.

“The river has made a very nice turnaround,” Beyer said.

Since 2002, the organization has removed thousands of carp, stocked 900,000 game and pan fish, and donated handicap accessible piers to the city that were installed at Riverside Park and Fannie P. Lewis Park.

The original target area has expanded from the 154 acres between the dams in Watertown to now include the 60-mile stretch between Watertown and Lake Sinissippi in Hustisford. The group is also continuing to clean up and restore the Heiden Pond area.

Also over the past couple of years, Beyer said the group has begun making scholarships available to graduating high school seniors pursuing a career in resource management. Their fundraising banquet is set for Oct. 2.

When not fishing, Beyer can be found at his store, Keck Furniture in downtown Watertown. The store was founded in 1853 by John Keck. Beyer’s father was hired by Keck in the 1940s and his parents became owners. Beyer, who has worked at Keck’s Furniture since pre-teen, is the second generation of the second family to own the furniture business.

Beyer is a 1981 graduate of Northwestern Preparatory of Watertown and received a degree in marketing, with a minor in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

He is a past director of the Main Street Program and has served on various city business-related committees and the former Downtown Business Association.

He and his wife Joan have six children, five sons and one daughter, of which five are involved in the furniture business in some capacity. They also have three grandsons.

Besides fishing, Beyer enjoys tying trout flies and has a collection of antique tackle. “I do like to hunt but I don’t have much time to do that as it is the busy season at the store.”

Beyer is fond of Ford Mustangs and has two vintage cars and one that’s more current.

Following are his answers to 10 questions.

1. Being involved with the Rock River Rescue, you must enjoy the outdoors. What is your favorite outdoor activity and why? I love to fish. Fishing is a sport that can be as simple as soaking worms for bullheads or as difficult as fly fishing for muskies. It’s kind of like golf: You never master it. It’s very relaxing for me, too.

2. If you could learn a new skill, what would it be? I’d like to be mechanically inclined and work on my own cars.

3. What is your favorite all-time movie and why? It’s not really a movie, “Band of Brothers.” I love history, and the courage that our veterans displayed is inspiring.

4. What is your favorite food? Either my wife Joan’s manicotti or eggplant parm. Both are incredible.

5. If you could take a dream vacation, where would you go? Someplace warm on a beach. Costa Rica in January or February would be nice.

6. What type of music do you enjoy? I like classic rock. Steely Dan is my favorite band.

7. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? What is your favorite topping? Anything with chocolate. It doesn’t need toppings.

8. What was your first car and do you have a fond memory of that vehicle? A 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix. It was a big boat of a car with enough engine to drive fast. Most of my memories of that car are from college, hanging out with friends, or going on dates with Joan.

9. What is the current screensaver on your phone? A group photo of my kids. I’m very proud of all of my children.

10. What type of chocolate do you like best, white, dark or milk chocolate? Definitely milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is OK.

Members of the Freistadt Alte Kameraden traditional German band led the first “Ein Prosit” singing at the weekend’s Gemeutlichkeit Days German heritage festival in Jefferson for 2021.

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Eaton to close its Watertown facility

The Watertown economy sustained a blow in recent days when it was announced by the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development that Eaton’s Watertown plant will be closing Nov. 19.

The facility is located at 901 S. 12th St. and employs 56 people, all of whom will be losing their jobs in the city.

Adrienne Mendes, who is lead human resources generalist and manager in the industrial control division at Eaton in Watertown, said Friday afternoon that Eaton is transitioning its U.S. Control Division manufacturing location in Watertown to Juarez, Mexico.

Mendes said that plans for the move have been in the offing since November of 2020.

“(It was then that) we announced to employees the decision to relocate our U.S. ICD manufacturing location in Watertown to Juarez, Mexico,” Mendes said. “With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting the global economy and our manufacturing sites, we must align our business and plant operations with market conditions to remain competitive. When the manufacturing move to Juarez is complete, the Watertown facility will be closed.”

According to a Dun & Bradstreet website company description, Eaton’s Watertown facility is part of the navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing industry. There are 1,254 companies in the Eaton Corp. corporate family.

Mendes confirmed the plant closure is expected to occur in December, with the first employee impact in November.

“The relocation of this manufacturing location is not a reflection on the dedicated and hard-working employees at the Watertown facility,” she said. “Employees who are not offered a comparable job within the company, and are ultimately impacted, will be offered severance benefits.”

She said employees who are impacted are eligible to apply for other open Eaton positions, such as ones available in Waukesha.

“We have communicated this plan to our customers and suppliers, and will continue to work closely with them to ensure their needs are met during this transition,” Mendes said. “This move has the potential to impact 56 positions in Watertown, although that number may be reduced through normal attrition and employees being offered comparable roles at other Eaton locations.”

According to Eaton, its mission is to, “improve the quality of life and the environment through the use of power management technologies and services.”

“We provide sustainable solutions that help our customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power – more safely, more efficiently, and more reliably,” a media release from the firm stated.

Eaton’s 2020 revenues were $17.9 billion, and it sells products to customers in more than 175 countries. It has approximately 85,000 employees.

According to the state’s department of workforce development in a letter to members of the Dislocated Worker Unit, the document was being made public as part of a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, which requires employers to give official notice to certain government units or officials of a pending mass layoff or permanent closure.

According to Eaton and the state, the layoffs will be phased, with the first of these phases anticipated to begin on Nov. 8, with the 56 employees being affected.

The state document listed affected positions, the number affected within each job title, and the planned layoff dates for salaried and hourly employees. It also noted that employees are not represented by a union.

The list of affected positions in Watertown includes 15 Assembler 2 employees, who will be released Nov. 8, with 20 more Assembler 2 and 3 staff members being released Nov. 8 through Jan. 28, 2022.

Workers in positions including supply chain clerk, lead manufacturing engineer, maintenance mechanic, plant manager, master designer, material handlers, senior quality technician, manufacturing supervisor and a quality inspector will be released Nov. 19 through March 31, 2022 for the total of 56 people being let go.

With a backdrop of blue skies, Matt Manthe of Heller’s Painting puts a fresh coat of paint on the sign of Watertown Bowl, 102 W. Cady St.