A ‘sad day’: Newton reacts to news of closing

A ‘sad day’: Newton reacts to news of closing
Date May 10, 2006
Section(s) Local News

NDN Staff Writer

There were few words of comfort for the Newton community this morning as the news spread of Whirlpool’s announcement to shut down its Maytag operations by the end of 2007.

People were embracing at Uncle Nancy’s Coffee House and Eatery as friends offered support to one another. Children were pulled from local schools as their parents tried to grasp the impact of losing their job. Some Newton citizens grew angry as they discussed the “mismanagement” of a Fortune 500 company. One Newton woman was brought to tears as she began discussing the effects of Maytag‘s closure on her family.

“I have relatives that work there and I don’t know what they are going to do. My brother-in-law is five years from retirement. I just hope they offer some sort of package deal. It’s a sad day,” said a woman at the Newton YMCA as she began to cry. “I’m heading home. I’ve got to go.”

Berg Middle School Principal Dave Gallaher said the school had at least one confirmed absence because of the Maytag pull out and several students have visited the guidance office, sad, wanting to share their situations.

“Tomorrow will be a different story,” said Gallaher of children being absent. “Several of the faculty have spouses or relations that work at Maytag, not just the students. Our best thing here (at Berg) is to make life as normal and routine as possible.”

Many patrons of Midtown Cafe sat in dismay after hearing the news.

“It’s a sad thing,” said Carl Repp of Newton, a Maytag retiree. “But it gives us the finality of what we’ve all expected. I always hoped it wouldn’t (close) but in the back of our minds we all knew it would.”

Repp’s sentiments were echoed at his table at the cafe on the Newton square.

“It’s kind of unbelievable,” said Bill Jensen, also a Maytag retiree from Newton. “I was once told by a Maytag executive ‘We have so much money that we don’t know what to do with it.’ and I wonder how can they blow that so fast. It’s bad decisions by management.”

As talk continued, many were questioning former Maytag CEO Ralph Hake’s management skills. One angry woman at Midtown Cafe said she could not say anything that could be repeated. Another woman began to hatch conspiracy theories over coffee.

“I think it was a planned failure,” said the woman, who refused to give her name. “(Hake) came from Whirlpool and he came to do that.”

Some community members chose to take the news with a more optimistic spin, stating that the end of Maytag could be the beginning of something bigger and better for the community.

“I hope that something really big comes in place of it,” said Brook Walker of Newton. “Maybe something good can come from it so that it didn’t have to be so hard on everyone.”

Allan Burkett, whose grandfather, father and several uncles retired from the company, said he thinks Newton will be able to recover from the plant’s closure.

“I think it’s unfortunate and in the short term it’s going to hurt the community and we will probably have to sit back and lick our wounds but we are going to be fine,” said Burkett who moved to Newton from Grinnell. “With the retail development at the raceway and the work of the Newton Development Corporation, I think Newton is on the right track to make progress as Maytag/Whirlpool pulls out.”

Local labor officials would not comment on the announcement but it did not stop other community members from discussing every aspect of the Maytag shutdown.

“Something like this is devastating to the community and it effects families the hardest,” said Ken Wisgerhof of Newton. “I think we’re all going to have to help those who are losing their jobs and help people get reestablished. This affects marriages, children, finances, family. It affects everyone.”

Rowe Winecoff, executive director of Capstone Behavioral Healthcare, said people need to realize that the emotions they are feeling are natural stages of dealing with a loss.

“Much of what people will be experiencing is the grief process. The emotions people are feeling are normal,” Winecoff said. “When people aren’t able to handle them and it affects sleeping and appetite, those things can trigger depression. But just going through the grief process isn’t a psychiatric disorder.

“We are always there. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week if anyone is in crisis.”

Newton Daily News writers John Jennings and Jim Cogdal contributed to this story.


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