Longtime department heads retire

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Brookhaven may be swearing in some new elected city officials inthe coming days, but there will also be some new appointed leadersas two department heads have decided to retire after many years ofservice to the city.

Street department superintendent Jimmy Griffin, who has workedin his position for 35 years, and Brookhaven Fire Chief Bob Watts,a veteran of 39 years with the department, both spent their lastdays as city employees Tuesday.

Griffin, who has been superintendent of the street departmentfor all 35 years he has spent with the city, said the years havebrought high points and low points.

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“I’ve been here 35 years, and there’s been some good and somebad, but more good than bad,” he said. “Work-wise, all my memoriesare good to a point. This city has been good to me and I’ve workedwith some good people.”

And Griffin’s admiration for his co-workers is mutual. Streetdepartment workers said Tuesday that it will be strange not to befollowing orders from their longtime commander.

“He was a good man to me, and he helped me get my job here,”said street department employee Michael Smith. “It hurts that he’sleaving, but he’s gotta go on.”

Fellow street department worker R.C. Cameron echoed Smith’ssentiments, saying he was grateful for the opportunities Griffinhas given him.

“He’s a good man, and I have to thank him for my job,” hesaid.

Bob Massengill, who worked with Griffin during his five years inthe mayor’s office, said he could always count on Griffin to do athorough and dependable job.

“It would blow people’s minds to know how many work orders he’sdone, as well as how many projects – small and large – he’scompleted,” Massengill said. “I really appreciate the relationshipI’ve had with Jimmy, and he’s going to be missed. He hasaccomplished a tremendous amount during his years here and I wishhim well in his retirement.”

Griffin said he is just going to take some time to himself onceretirement kicks in. But, he said, he will never be too busy inretirement to help his people.

“I’m going to miss them,” he said. “I’ll leave that door open,and if I can help they can always call me.”

Meanwhile, Watts, who has been fire chief for about four years,retires with 39 years with the city under his belt, and 43 overallas a firefighter. He said he’ll miss getting to know the manydifferent personalities that he has met in the fire service.

“It’s been great to work with so many different kind of peoplebecause even though we’re all firefighters, everyone has their ownpersonalities,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of good friends throughthe years, and it’s like a family out there. You spend a lot ofyour life with those guys, some of them I’ve worked with 25 yearsor longer. We’ve raised our families together.”

His men said they will remember him as a good man who used hisown discretion in leadership and would go to great lengths for hisfirefighters.

“He ran the department like he felt like it should be run,” saidLt. Jeff Ainsworth. “I’ve known him for a long time, and first andforemost, he is a good man.”

Lt. Kelly Porter said that Watts was always willing to help whentimes got tough.

“He’s been the chief the whole time I’ve been employed here, andthere have been many times I’ve gone in there asking for help,”Porter said. “And if he could help out, he would.”

Firefighter Jared Evans said Watts’ long track record and yearsof service speak for themselves.

“Thirty-nine years, eight presidents. That says all you need toknow about his dedication to the fire service,” he said. “As far asBrookhaven is concerned, there aren’t a lot of people in any case -in a city of any size – that dedicate their life like he has, andthat says something about his character.”

Massengill said during the four years Watts was chief, it was apleasure to work with him.

“Bob Watts has served the city well for 39 years, and has beenan excellent fire chief for the last four,” he said. “He worked hisway up through the ranks and was someone that I could depend onthese last four years. I feel he’s been a good director and chieffor the fire department, and I wish him the best in his retirementas well.”

Watts said he’s grateful for the support he and his departmenthave received through the years.

“I just want to thank all the businesses and the churches andcivic groups that support the department and do things for us. Thatmeans a lot,” he said. “A lot of times we as firemen may not saythat, but it really means a lot to be recognized. And that means weneed to be good representatives, too.”

He also expressed his thanks to city leaders and the people ofBrookhaven he’s worked with and for. And like Griffin, Watts’ menare grateful for the chances he has given them.

“If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here,” said FirefighterDennis Barrett. “I wish him all the luck in the world.”

Aldermen will name successors for Griffin and Watts at a futureboard meeting.