Hope adds two new staff members

HOPE – Two natives of Columbus are preparing to assume leadership roles with municipal government in Hope.

Gaith Comstock will succeed David Clouse as utility superintendent, while Kristina Nerz is already at work as building and zoning administrator.

Comstock attended Columbus East and Columbus North high schools before graduating in 2011. He spent most of his career working in construction, he said. Eventually, he became the proprietor of Comstock Concrete Construction LLC in Hope.

When his company was hired last year to install sidewalks along Washington Street in Hope, Comstock said he worked closely with town manager Jason Eckart.

“I think Jason like the way I carried myself in a stressful situation, and offered me the job,” Comstock said.

Hired last September to begin several months of hands-on training, Comstock said he quickly discovered there’s more to the job than he was expecting.

For example, the utility superintendent in Hope is also in charge of streets and parks, as well as water, wastewater and stormwater.

“It’s an important job,” Comstock said. “You don’t just clock in and out. If something happens at 12 o’clock at night, you’ve got to get up and fix it.”

Although Comstock is scheduled to officially become utilities superintendent at the end of this year, Clouse will have to remain on staff through next year.

Indiana regulations requires Comstock to work in the department for a year before he can try earning required certifications. His year will be up in September.

“Then, I can take classes and tests to get my licenses,” Comstock said. “At first, I’ll be be focused on wastewater. After that, I‘ll study and get my license in water testing.”

If all goes as planned, Comstock will be fully integrated into his job by the end of 2025.

“But I’ll still have to be calling Dave,” Comstock said. “That man is a library of knowledge.”

Kristina Nerz, who succeeds Matthew Galbraith as building and zoning administrator, is a 1990 graduate of Columbus North High School.

She first got her undergraduate degree in natural science and environmental studies at the Purdue School of Agriculture. After working in the private sector, Nerz earned her post-graduate degree in Urban Planning at the University of Illinois in Chicago, with a minor in economic development.

Nerz said she is working with Eckart and others to examine possible ways she can utilize more of her training on the town’s behalf.

In Hope, the building and zoning administrator is not a municipal employee. Nerz is working part-time hours as an independent contractor.