"I am going to miss the people," J.R. Simmons said when discussing his upcoming retirement, "I really am."
Simmons, who serves as the Newcomerstown Street Department superintendent and Newcomerstown Street commissioner (which is appointed by the mayor), will officially retire from his post Nov. 30 -- that marks 34 years and three months working for the Village of Newcomerstown. He said he believes that his tenure is the longest any employee has been employed in the village.
"I've enjoyed working with the community," he said. "I believe I have done a good job,"
Simmons started in Newcomerstown on Aug. 30, 1976, working at the water department as an extra laborer. Back then, he worked for $3 an hour. Simmons said he can recall how things were done the "old way" by loading and unloading trucks by hand and mixing concrete to patch holes.
It wasn't until 2001 that Simmons moved from the water department to the street department.
Since taking over the helm, he has built an addition onto the street department building, installed French drains to reduce standing water in the village, started a crack-seal program, started the street paving program, assigns address numbers for new properties, works closely with the county 9-1-1 system, etc.
He said the street department has also started doing minor maintenance on the police cruisers such as oil changes and tire rotation.
"I don't think people realize all we do," he said.
They also do leaf pick-up, clean storm drains, mowing, trim trees, patch holes, pave alleys, paint streets, pick-up trash, plow snow, etc.
"The residents are always my priority," he said, especially during the winter months when he can remember plowing snow for 32 hours straight.
Simmons has also been the licensed mosquito sprayer in the village.
He believes he is a supervisor but also one who needs to be out in the field doing the labor -- with only four employees, he feels its necessary.
The Nov. 15 Newcomerstown Village Council meeting was his last meeting as street superintendent and street commissioner, and the last time he would give his monthly report before council and the mayor.
As far as his plans for retirement, he said he's not sure. Simmons and his wife Donna will continue to teach line dance classes and he may get involved in the community in another way -- serving on council in Stone Creek, where he resides.
"Just whatever opportunities come my way," he said. "I'll take it just one step at a time, if the opportunity is there, I'll probably take it."
As he leaves his post in the village, he said he will miss his friends he has made over the years.
"I like meeting the people and getting to know them," he said. "There's a lot of good residents here."