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City Employee Hard at Work for 50 Years: 'I Love My Job, I Love Keeping Busy' 
Rodney Wilson hears it a lot: Dude, don't you want to retire?

After all, the Fleet Services Equipment Technician first came to work for the City in March 1973. With 50+ years on the job, Wilson is currently the City's longest-serving employee. He's well-deserving of some leisure time if he wants it.

But Wilson has a different way of looking at it.

"My theory of living long and well is to keep the body in motion," he says. "People are always telling me I should retire. But I love my job. I love working with my hands. I love keeping busy.

"I love the people I work with, and I love the public. 

Besides that, Wilson is a go-to guy with a ton of experience and knowhow.

He's been there, done it.

A trusted co-worker. A friendly face.

Wilson values doing a job the right way. He's ingrained with a work ethic that never quits. 

He sometimes shows up at work before dawn - just to catch up on paperwork.

"Our main goal is to get equipment serviced, or repaired, and get it back out as fast as we can to the crews who need it," Wilson says. "Get it in, get it out."

Fleet Services Director Nicholas Bradshaw says Wilson is highly respected - revered, in fact.

"There is not a single blade of grass in any park in this City that hasn't been cut by a mower blade sharpened by Rodney Wilson," Bradshaw says. "But more than Rodney's years, it's his commitment to teamwork, and his dedication, that people admire.

"He's a true professional. He was our Employee of the Year a few years back. Rodney is a great employee and a great person."

Wilson's co-workers seldom refer to it as the Small Engine Shop. To them, it's "Rodney's shop."

And his shop services about 680 pieces of equipment - everything from $14,000 commercial-grade zero-turn propane-powered mowers to weed eaters, chain saws, backpack blowers, concrete cutters, and Fire Department exhaust fans.

That's a far cry from 1973, when the City as a whole had fewer than 40 pieces of equipment, Wilson says.

Back then, there was no Fleet Services Department - and really, no fleet to speak of, in the modern sense. Each department purchased its own vehicles and equipment. Wilson remembers riding out to a park with a rickety old push mower loaded into the back of a World War II surplus Army truck.

Wilson followed in the footsteps of several family members who served long careers with the City. His father, mother and grandfather collectively worked 70 years, serving City residents.

What is Wilson most proud of? When asked, his answers might surprise you.

For example, he's always favored long hair. But he periodically cuts it and donates it to Locks of Love, a non-profit that collects donated hair to make wigs for children undergoing cancer treatment.

He fondly mentions his brother, Ted, who for two years at the University of Tennessee dressed up as Smokey, the Vols' sideline mascot. Ted is now an Air Force chaplain.

And what about those two "R words"?

"If people aren't asking me about retiring," Wilson says, "they'll ask me, 'Are you going for the record?'"

Wilson remembers hearing people refer to former KPD Sgt. Wayne Bell having retired with 52 or more years of service. He believes Sgt. Bell may be the record holder.

"I don't know that I'm going to hit 52 years, but I don't have any plans to retire anytime soon," he says. "It all will depend on my health." 

Surely a guy who's been on the job for half a century never sees anything new or surprising - right? Nope!

"You never know it all," Wilson says. "I'm still learning new things. I've seen a lot, but there are a few things I still run across that I haven't seen before."
Posted by evreeland On 10 April, 2024 at 11:10 AM