The city of Union is seeking a new public works director.
Harold Lampkin, the first and so far only director, has decided to retire after 45 years with the city. Lampkin said his last day is scheduled for Sept. 7.
“I’m going to retire and take it easy,” he said.
Lampkin started out with the city at just 19 years old. For the next four decades, he rose up through the ranks and eventually became the first head of the city’s public works department.
City Administrator Russell Rost said the city is currently looking at candidates to fill in on an interim basis before looking for a permanent replacement.
Lampkin’s retirement actually may come a little sooner. Earlier this month he injured his ankle and required surgery. He said the procedure should sideline him for a few weeks.
City Engineer Jonathan Zimmermann has worked with Lampkin for the last 18 years. He said Lampkin is irreplaceable.
“You don’t replace 45 years of knowledge,” he said.
Part of Lampkin’s value is his extensive knowledge of the job, Zimmermann said.
“He has just a ton of experience that, unfortunately, we’re losing,” he said. “He worked in the road system, he worked in the water department, he worked in wastewater. He’s been involved in everything. It’s really hard to lose that much experience. It’s a very difficult pill to swallow.”
Lampkin began his career in the city’s water department. He worked there for 18 years — 13 as a supervisor.
Lampkin pointed out that he started in the water department so long ago the city was still filtering water out of the Bourbeuse River.
After that, he transferred to the street department. He spent 12 years in that department, serving six as a supervisor.
In 2003 the city created the public works director position and Lampkin was seen as the ideal candidate. He had experience as a meter reader, backhoe operator, laborer and had worked on streets.
In all, he’s worked with six different mayors and six different city administrators.
Lampkin also has been around for the major growth of Union. He’s seen the changes from the ground up.
“I’ve laid a lot of water lines in this town,” he said.
Rost said Lampkin was “instrumental” in allowing the city to keep up with the growth.
“He was a well-loved supervisor,” he said. “He’s going to be deeply missed. He was an important part of my staff and it’s going to be a tremendous adjustment figuring out how to go forward.”
Rost said the challenge of finding someone to find someone to take over for Lamkpin will be tough.
“He’s been a tremendous asset for the city,” Rost said. “It’s going to be a tremendous loss for the city. It’s going to be difficult to replace him.”
Rost credited Lampkin with helping improve the streets and sidewalks in the city. He said Lampkin identified roads that needed improving and implemented a plan to improve the sidewalks.
When Lampkin started, he said the job was very different. The backhoes didn’t have cabs, let alone heating and air conditioning.
Lampkin said the best part of the job is the people.
“I’ll miss all the employees and being part of the city,” he said. “It’s time, but it’s just hard to walk away.”
In retirement, he said he plans to spend time with his wife, Susan, and family. He said he plans to take it easy through the winter.
“That’s what I worked all these years for,” he said.
By retiring in the fall, Lampkin won’t have to worry about plowing snow. He said he’s looking forward to staying in during a snowstorm.
Lampkin said he hopes the next person has a passion for the job.
“I hope someone is going to be dedicated,” he said. “That’s what I always thought I was.”