Gary Osbourne recalled that the bookkeeping, record-keeping and minute-taking tasks took some getting used to, but the warm camaraderie and familiar faces in City Hall made for a welcoming place to work from the beginning.

“Have you heard the term that Moses’ people wandered in the desert for 40 years? I feel like I wandered in the desert of life for 10 years.”

Gary Osbourne found his oasis after that decade, taking on his role as Monroe City Clerk in October 1974. During his service of more than four decades, Osbourne forged friendships with fellow employees — many of whom have been at City Hall for 20 years or more. During his final day before retirement on Thursday, Jan. 4, Osbourne reflected on the changes, fond memories and the service he provided to the community during those years.

Osbourne pursued various endeavors before finding a career that was the right fit. After he graduated from high school at age 17, he attended three colleges — receiving a business administration degree from Northeast Missouri State University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1969, and he also worked with JC Penney for about two-and-a-half years. But when he became Monroe City Clerk, Osbourne knew City Hall was the right place to be.

Osbourne recalled that the bookkeeping, record-keeping and minute-taking tasks took some getting used to, but the warm camaraderie and familiar faces in City Hall made for a welcoming place to work from the beginning.

“It took a while to get acclimated toward that, because I hadn’t had any particular experience with that,” he said. “But I found it very rewarding, and decided to stay with it.”

Over the years, Osbourne saw many technological changes — when he began in 1974, City Hall was located across the street in the present police station building. He said he began with a Royal manual typewriter and an adding machine. Osbourne discussed a fun memory involving the gas department superintendent, who determined the cost of gas each month. The City purchased him a $500 state-of-the-art calculator in the 1970s for the job.

“I told him if he would give me that calculator, I would do that one task he had of figuring the cost of gas,” Osbourne said. “And I kept that calculator for 15 years.”

Osbourne said computer technology boosted efficiency and speed at City Hall — he remembered feeding a ledger and bill into a large billing machine which took three full days to produce a bill. That task takes about one hour now. With every advancement, Osbourne adapted and mastered new procedures. Even though technology kept changing, the friends he made over the years were a welcome mainstay of his career.

“Basically, the people who work at City Hall have the tendency to stay for several years at a time,” he said. “I worked with the City Collector for 32 years, and just about everybody has been 30 years-plus.”

Osbourne said he enjoyed seeing familiar faces on each side of the counter over the years and getting to know many people. His colleagues set up a farewell celebration with cookies and punch on Tuesday, Dec. 26 and Wednesday, Dec. 27.

“That was nice to see a lot of people come up and show their appreciation for services rendered,” Osbourne said.

Shirley Arch, who has worked with Osbourne for the past 25 years, chuckled as she recalled joining fellow employees in pulling good-natured pranks and joking with their friend once they discovered he was retiring. She said he will definitely be missed at City Hall on a personal and a professional level — noting his successor will have big shoes to fill.

“He’s been here 42 years. That’s a lot of knowledge. Honestly, I didn’t ever think he’d retire. I just figured he’d die here,” she said with a laugh. But Osbourne said he’s eager to embark on a new chapter in life with his wife, Chris.

The couple will travel to Texas next week, and they have plans to move to a community for residents 55 years of age and older. He said he looks forward to “seeing where life takes us.”

“The fun thing, I think, is just figuring out what to do,” Osbourne said. “I always had a regimented and structured life with the City here, and now I don’t have any restrictions — I can go where I want to. It’s going to be sort of fun to figure that out.”

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com