When driving onto the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown campus, you will probably pass the beef cattle out in the field. For some, they’re cute social media fodder. For Nelson Kilmer, maintenance manager, they’re a reminder of what might have been.
Nelson grew up around cows – not beef cattle, but the Holsteins on his family’s dairy farm. Although he majored in theology with a psychology minor (knowledge he uses in his role as a manager) at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, he planned to be a dairy farmer, too. However, plans changed when a chemical accident on the farm caused scarring on his lungs and a difficulty with dust and methane gas.
“I had to leave farming, which is what I had known my whole life,” Nelson said.
When a friend with a small plumbing company offered him a job, Nelson enrolled in what he calls “the school of hard knocks.” He worked in Harrisburg for three years before moving on to a larger company in Mountville where he did HVAC as well as plumbing. He came to Masonic Village on Aug. 31, 1992.
“I love my job,” he said.
As maintenance manager, Nelson oversees the health care maintenance team and the utilities maintenance team – 18 employees total. Every day, he comes in a half hour earlier than the rest of the staff – usually between 6 and 6:30 a.m. He uses this time to get his desk work completed before the hustle and bustle of the day. When the staff comes in at 7, they take care of any issues that occurred overnight or are new that morning. The rest of the day, Nelson has meetings with members of his department, staff from other departments, vendors and outside contractors.
“I may be dealing with equipment issues anywhere across campus. My work in the Masonic Health Care Center involves a lot of regulatory compliance: Department of Health, Department of Human Services, township, etc.,” he said, elaborating on his day-to-day. It’s fortunate, then, that the two things Nelson most enjoys in his job are working with people and problem-solving.
“I try to help the staff for whom I am responsible have a meaningful and significant time here in what they do. I feel that I am able to make a positive impact and see them grow,” he said.
To individuals considering a maintenance career, Nelson says, “jump in with both feet – and make it here at Masonic Village!”
“We are not just installing something for a profit and then moving on. We are here to make it our own. If we work on something, there’s a good chance that we will be the one to see it again the next time. That can give us an extra amount of pride in the work we do. We work in teams here and get to know each other on a personal level; that is rewarding,” he said.
Nelson is a proud grandfather of five (with number six arriving soon!). In college, he played soccer, which he still enjoys … although he’s “more of a spectator than a participant now.” The opposite is true with music. A country music fan (Vince Gill and Alison Krauss are two favorites), Nelson plays keyboard and banjo – sometimes at the Masonic Health Care Center’s midweek religious services.
While not his first career choice, maintenance manager at Masonic Village has turned into much more than a job for Nelson.