After Charles Norris gives up maintaining roads, he intends to spend some time on them.
"I want to do some traveling," said the Columbia County Roads and Bridges manager, who intends to retire next month after 44 years with the county.
"Me and my wife want to go places and see things we haven't seen before."
Norris started his career with Roads and Bridges on June 10, 1964, as a 17-year-old transplant from McDuffie County.
"I started out as a laborer driving a tractor, cutting grass on the shoulder of the road," the Appling resident recalled.
"I moved from that to a truck driver. Then I moved from a truck driver to a heavy equipment operator. Then I went to foreman."
Norris became the county's road superintendent in 1980.
"I've seen a heap of changes," he said. "We used to scrape driveways and haul dirt to people's houses. They stopped that back in the early 1980s."
The county grew too big to continue such favors, Norris said.
Now, Roads and Bridges limits its services to maintaining the county's rights-of-way, which takes up all the time of his staff of 45, Norris said.
Tim Holloway, the assistant manager of Roads and Bridges, has served on Norris' staff for nearly 20 years. In that time, he has learned much from Norris on how to manage people.
"His work ethic and knowing how to deal with employees is hard to describe," Holloway said. "He knows how to talk to people, and that makes him a special manager."
Like Holloway, many of the Roads and Bridges crew have worked with Norris for more than 20 years.
His retirement feels like saying goodbye to a good friend, Holloway said.
"We're just going to miss having him here," he said.
As the county's longest-serving employee, Norris said the timing is right to leave.
"I'm 62 and time is passing me by," he said.
"With this new generation with computers, it's just time to back down and let somebody else have it."
Still, there are some aspects of the job Norris said he will miss.
"I'm going to miss the people I worked with," he said.
"I met a lot of people in 40 years. I made a few enemies, but, hopefully, I made more friends."
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