On Dec. 18, 2017, Winfield Iobst attended his last Emmaus Borough Council meeting as mayor, choosing not to run for re-election earlier in the year and stepping down after more than two decades as mayor.
“I really felt it was time for me to go out,” Iobst said in the kitchen of the house in which he grew up and has called home for much of his life. “I am going out on a good note... I felt that I helped by being the mayor of Emmaus,” he said.
“When I came in (at 55 years old) I was one of the younger ones. Now I’m one of the older ones. Now I am history. You’re looking at him,” Iobst said with ringing laugh.
So far, however, Iobst is not slowing down.
He continues to serve the community as a crossing guard at Lincoln Elementary School, Emmaus, two days a week, work the acreage of what was once the family dairy business on South Fifth Street, attend church and his grandchildren’s games and, of course, ride his motorcycle, his third Harley.
In an interview he hosted in his home recently, Iobst offered his response to a fellow church member who asked how he was enjoying his retirement.
“I said I didn’t have time to relax yet,” he joked.
Iobst is the third in his family history to serve the borough in its highest office. According to an online history of Lehigh County, in 1859, Frederick T. Iobst served what was to become Emmaus as burgess of the community. In 1959, Theodore “Ted” Iobst, Winfield’s father, became mayor.
Theodore Iobst operated a dairy business on seven acres near the current location of St. Ann Catholic Church.
Born and raised in Emmaus, Winfield Iobst attended borough schools. He began officially working in the family dairy business with his father as a teen and drove a milk truck. He worked at Gabby’s Market at the corner of Broad and South Fifth streets. He would go on to work for Mack Trucks and would marry and raise a family in Emmaus. One of his children lives next door.
“I live my whole life around Emmaus. I don’t do vacations,” Iobst said.
In an email to The Press, Shane Pepe, Emmaus borough manager, described Iobst as “having the pulse of the community.”
“Mayor Iobst has been the face of Emmaus for many years,” Pepe wrote. “He has a great heart and has always made decisions based on what he feels is best for our community.”
David A. Faust, now chief deputy of administration for the Lehigh County Sheriff’s Office and former Emmaus police chief, played baseball with Iobst’s sons and lived in the neighborhood before working with Iobst in the borough.
In comments to The Press, he described Iobst as “a father figure, friend or an advocate for whatever it was that we needed at the time” in the Emmaus Police Department. Iobst knew all of the officers and staff by their first names.
“The mayor loves Emmaus and was always passionate about the people who live and visit the community.” Faust continued.
In a desk drawer in his kitchen, Iobst keeps treasures of his time in office including an autographed picture of 1998-1999 Miss Pennsylvania Mayra Acosta to whom he gave a tour of the borough, photographs and thank-you notes from parents and students he has helped cross the street at Lincoln Elementary School.
In addition to, by definition of his job, heading the Emmaus police department while in office, Iobst’s duties as mayor also included taking visiting exchange students from France and Germany on tours of the borough, ribbon cuttings of the openings of new businesses, presiding at weddings and presenting Eagle Scout awards, to name a few.
“I wasn’t in my office (in borough hall) much,” Iobst said.
Among his favorite tasks was visiting schools where he would answer students’ questions about his job such as did he have a big black car like other mayors and whether he lived in a White House.
“I drive a little silver car and live in a gray house,” was his favorite reply, he said.
Two days a week, Iobst is a crossing guard for students at Lincoln Elementary School. A friend asked Iobst to substitute for him when he had to work swing shifts. Iobst filled in for his first five years. Thirty years ago he got his own spot and now presides over one of the busiest intersections near the school.
On a recent afternoon, Iobst greeted students and their parents and waved to an Emmaus police officer on patrol. He brings treats for the family dogs who escort parents and students from school. Bigger dogs get two treats.
“See you tomorrow,” Iobst called to an appreciative pup.
During Iobst’s tenure in office, the Borough of Emmaus was twice named one of the Top 100 Places to Live in the United States by CNN / Money Magazine; in 2007 and again in 2009. The borough also was recognized by Pennsylvania for its livability, its safe environment as a community and received other accolades during Iobst’s time in office.
“I wish everybody well for the future,” Iobst said of those at borough hall. “I wish them all the best.”