Town Loses 24 Years Of Knowledge - TribPapers

Town Loses 24 Years Of Knowledge

Director Dale Pennell (right) speak highly of retiring employee Rick Harper (left). Photo by Clint Parker.

Weaverville – According to Dale Pennell, public works director, the Town of Weaverville Public Works Department has lost 78 years of combined knowledge about the town’s water system in the last six months. It’s not people leaving for another job, but people retiring from the town.

Retirement of Rick Harper

On Friday (June 30th), 24 of the 78 years gathered with the other department’s employees, the great majority of whom he had a hand in hiring, to wish Rick Harper their best in his retirement. Harper, 70, believes it is time to head to the house for honey-do-work and more fishing.

Harper was with the Asheville Water Department for seventeen years before he came to Weaverville, giving him a total combined total of 42 years. Asked if he thought it was time to go to the house, Harper said, “Yeah, my body is helping me decide.”

Harper started out reading water meters with the town, saying it was the only job he didn’t do at the City of Asheville’s Water Department. After four years, he moved to the position of superintendent of public works until about three years ago, when he took the job as superintendent of water. “The superintendent of water retired, and they asked me to transfer over to water since I had water experience. I’ve enjoyed it all! The town has been good to me!”

Asked what he would miss most about the job, Rick didn’t hesitate, “I’m going to miss these people. I could miss the job and all that goes with that, the people, they’re family. You don’t work together every day for 24 years…and just walk away from them. That’s hard to do. It’s hard for me to do anyway. That’s why I’m four years past retirement trying to decide if this is what I wanted to do…It’s going to be strange Monday morning not to get up and go to work.”

“He’s really the senior member of our whole staff,” said Pennell. “He’s participated in hiring every single person in this room. So he’s been involved and, in a lot of ways, served as a mentor to a lot of those fellows in helping them to learn the ropes and be so valuable. Thank goodness for that because he’s going to be missed.”

Pennell goes on to say it’s not just job-related where Harper plays a major role. “He’s been a big participant, even when we do special things for folks who are having babies, or surgery, or had a death in the family, or whatever the case might be. He’s always the one to make the special effort to do what we can for the folks in those situations. He’s going to be missed in a lot of ways.”

When it came to addressing the attendees at the event, after a grandiloquent introduction by Pannell, Harper told the group what they meant to him and then offered a prayer of safety for them while doing their jobs for the people of the town and for the employees’ families. “I think, right now, we have the best crew we’ve had in a long time.”

The public works members were joined by some of the town council members and by Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons and Rick’s wife, Delores, for the luncheon of Rick’s favorite meal from Bellagio’s.