Long Time Public Works Employee Retires - TribPapers

Long Time Public Works Employee Retires

Jody Holcombe with his family at his retirement luncheon. Photo by Clint Parker.

Weaverville – It’s not something you see much anymore. A person getting a job at 19 and working with the same employer for 30 years and retiring. Employers have changed, and what employees want has changed too, but for one Weaverville Town worker, that’s exactly what he did. He worked 30 years, and he retired this month.

Jody Holcombe, a Utility Maintenance Crew Leader with the town’s water department, joined the town in 1993 on the back of a garbage truck, a thankless job that makes life better for the rest of us, helping take away our unwanted refuse. About his start, Holcombe said he started on the “back of the garbage truck hanging off of it getting trash…and if it was heavy, you just held on, grunted, and threw it on in there.”

After a year in that position, Holcombe moved over to water meter reading. A job that is no longer needed since the town last year completed a seven-year project of replacing all meters with a radio read meter. Then to the street department, finally ending up in the water department, where he spent 25 years, working his way up to crew leader.

“I like the hands-on [aspect of the job], because it’s a little bit of mechanical and a little bit of having to figure stuff out,” he said, describing the position.

Why did he love the job so much? “The work that you do and the people that you meet. You run into folks and make friends. I know a lot of times they say you don’t bring home the work, but you know, where I was at it was like family. We’ve cried together. We’ve had people that have passed away. We’ve had people who had hardship in their families, and we’ve tried to help them out. You know, everybody together.”

Along the way, the North Buncombe graduate found time to get married and raise four boys. One of which is employed by the town and were all, but one, present at the retirement party held at the public works building in Holcombe’s honor. He also is one of the few town employees that lives inside the town limits.

“I never did like change. I just enjoyed the town. The town has always been good to me,” said Holcombe when asked why he stayed with the job for more than 30 years. “It’s like family. It’s a pretty good place to work. Everybody takes care of each other.”

Nothing but praise from the Director

“Jody has been an amazing person. This was his first real paying job… He’s a true example of a person who has the best interest of the town in mind when he does his work,” voiced Dale Pennell, the Public Works Director. “He’s proud of his town, and I think that’s reflected in his work. He’s one of the first people to call after hours if there’s any kind of emergency. He’s taken a lot of these people [other employees] who’ll be here after he’s gone and been a mentor.”

Pennell said that the town has seven miles of water lines. “And Jody knows where all seven miles are, and so when he decided to retire about a year ago, he’s been working trying to make sure that he’s passing that knowledge along.” For those who think those lines are just found in town, not so. The water lines extend from the water treatment plant along the Ivy River in the north, south to Woodfin, and east to Ox Creek, explained Pennell. “A lot of it is cross-country and not just down the edge of a street.”

The director finished by saying, “He’s one of those resources that you’re happy for him because he’s getting to move on with his family and his life, but you hate it because that’s a lot of knowledge that you’re losing.”

Asked why he had decided now to retire, Holcombe expressed that the main reason was that his mother and father were not in good health and he needed to help take care of them. His wife, Karen, has a honey-do list, as Jody sported a shirt imprinted with “Under New Management,” and Karen’s shirt declared “Management.” Holcombe also hopes to spend more time woodworking, gardening, and fishing, which he loves to do. One would imagine Pennell would have Jody on his speed dial, just in case of an emergency.