After 31 years of quality service and unshakable commitment, Ronnie Thompson, 69, of Westmoreland, officially made the decision to retire as a foreman at the Sumner County Highway Department.
On Dec. 12, a gathering of more than 60 employees took time to celebrate their well-respected senior worker who Summer County Road Superintendent Judy Hardin sees as dependable, trustworthy, loyal, consistent and a good friend.
“It’s always hard to replace a tenured worker,” Hardin said. “With Ronnie, it will take two to replace one because of his strong work ethic. He is very talented. He can operate several different pieces of equipment.”
At the afternoon celebration it was clear that Thompson was well-respected, deeply appreciated and would definitely be missed.
But his impact would live on in his legacy of encouraging, guiding, and training others to give nothing short of their very best.
The plaudits, pats on the back, thanks, and recognition came from a variety of people and other resources.
“Ms. Judy gave Ronnie a replica of the equipment he has used over the years, as well as a cap and a watch,” said Debbie Sutton, administrative assistant to the office manager.
The Sumner County Board of Commissioners presented Thompson with a Certificate of Recognition on Monday, Dec. 16, honoring his service at the Highway Department.
Hardin said that Thompson first started out as a truck driver for the Highway Department, then worked as an equipment operator, and served his final eight years as an area foreman.
“He taught me a little bit of everything,” said coworker Ricky Duffer.
Close friend and coworker Shay Bradley will miss having Thompson around for the workday.
“We’ve had a lot of good times and fun,” Bradley said. “He got stuck in a dump truck along the road, and I’d go in to pull him out. I’d get the back hoe stuck, and he’d say to me - how can you get a back hoe stuck. I’ve worked with him 13 years. He’s a good person to work for. He’s an honest man. His work ethic stands out. You make sure you do a good job and make sure you make things look right. And when it comes to running equipment, he’s a great operator. When I came here we were both equipment operators. He became foreman, and I stayed as equipment operator. I’m now taking his place as area foreman in the Westmoreland area.”
Hardin said she appreciates Thompson’s focus, commitment, easy going nature, and the ability he has to bring out the best in his coworkers.
“He loves to deer hunt, and he and his wife like to travel,” she said. “He has a motorcycle. He and his wife like to go riding. He’s down to earth and is truly – country all the way.”
“I will miss the guys,” Thompson said, adding that he’s looking forward to traveling with his wife, Wanda.
The couple has been married 39 years and has two children and two step-children.
One thing Thompson is really looking forward to is some travel time after his official last day at the site on Dec. 31, when he still has some accrued vacation days coming.
“We’ll be going on a cruise in January, to the Caribbean at Saint John’s Island,” he said. “We’re also looking forward to going out to the Redwood forests out west. We try to go somewhere every year.”
Hardin, who has worked for the Sumner Highway Department for 33 years, with eight years as Road Superintendent, said that she will miss the consistency and reliability to get the job while seeing to it that others get their jobs done as well.
“Ronnie is consistent and always dependable,” she said. “He brings out the best in everyone.”