Column: Hamilton celebrates Tom Vanderhorst for doing ‘30 years of work in a decade’

The “legendary master of delivering dad jokes” among the lobbies and offices of Hamilton city hall is retiring this week.

Tom Vanderhorst, the city’s executive director of External Services, was honored last week by Hamilton City Council for his decade of service, first as the city’s finance director for three years and then in his current role for the past seven.

In true Vanderhorst style, after a proclamation detailing some of his accomplishments and accolades, he talked about how he got into an argument with his wife, and told her she needs to embrace her mistakes. Then she hugged him (ba-da-bump).

Vanderhorst will be missed around the Hamilton administrative offices for more than just his dad jokes. Mayor Pat Moeller read a page-long proclamation with a laundry list of his contributions and accolades, but honestly, it could have been 20 pages.

“The proclamation you read said a lot of things,” said City Manager Joshua Smith, who hired Vanderhorst in 2014, “I promise you the proclamation you read did not cover everything.”

Vanderhorst worked on every major project in the city, Smith said, from the multi-million-dollar Spooky Nook development to the creation of the Hamilton Parks Conservancy.

“He’s done 30 years of work in a decade, and his fingerprints are literally on every instrumental project that we have touched,” Smith said.

Vanderhorst said the past 10 years “has been a fun ride,” and made some relationships he’ll “never forget,” as many were forged making Hamilton a better place. Spooky Nook, which he said “died 1,000 deaths” before it came to fruition, was one of many projects Vanderhorst and others burned the midnight oil to make it work.

Council member Carla Fiehrer was also thankful for Vanderhorst’s contributions to the city, but what stands out to her most is when she looked over his LinkedIn profile, reading the comments from ”all the people, the number, hundreds of people outside the city wishing you well, commenting on the things you’ve done. You have gone way beyond the city of Hamilton with how you’ve impacted this community.”

Councilman Tim Naab said with the countless hours Vanderhorst has spent working to shape Hamilton, either professionally in his roles with the city or as a volunteer, “the fabric of Hamilton will never be the same.”

From the first day Smith interviewed Vanderhorst, a meeting where the city manager called out his tie for being ugly, he said, “I intuitively knew the minute that when Tom came in and sat down, that within a minute he was going to be the candidate (for finance director).”

Ten years later, Smith said he “cannot say enough” about Vanderhorst’s contributions ― though he stands by his ugly interview tie statement ― and added that Wednesday will be a sad day as it will be Vanderhorst’s last.

“What you’ve contributed to Hamilton has been superlative,” Smith said.

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