The Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) Board has a number of significant decisions to make in the weeks ahead, not the least of which will be the selection of a successor for Bob Stevenson, general manager of the utility for a little over eight years, who intends to retire soon.

The Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) Board has a number of significant decisions to make in the weeks ahead, not the least of which will be the selection of a successor for Bob Stevenson, general manager of the utility for a little over eight years, who intends to retire soon.

Stevenson’s position was posted on the HBPW’s website — www.hannibalbpw.org — earlier this week. An advertisement publicizing the job is due to appear in the Friday, Feb. 2, edition of the Courier-Post.

Why depart now?

“There’s a couple of reasons I guess,” said Stevenson. “I have been on this job longer than any job in my life. I just passed my 69th birthday and it’s probably time.”

Stevenson says his decision was not made in haste.

“My wife and I have been discussing this probably for a couple of years, trying to figure out when was the best time. But there is no good best time, not for me,” said Stevenson. “Frankly I am kind of nervous about it. It’s a big change. It will be a whole new lifestyle change and I am not used to that. I don’t like change that much. I am a little nervous, but I guess I will get over that.”

Stevenson has been open with the HBPW Board regarding his plans. He said he notified the board of his intentions that fall. A departure date has not been written in stone.

“I have been waffling around on that and have not given them an official letter with a date, although I was planning to do that today,” said Stevenson Thursday morning.

While he declined to share publicly what that date will be, Stevenson acknowledged he will be gone in a “couple of months.”

Retirement will not be an idle time for Stevenson.

“I have got a list probably longer than I have time left on this planet. I have got things around the house that have to be done,” he said. “I used to build houses when I was younger and I would like to build another one or two. We want to do some traveling. We want to spend more time with kids and grandkids who are away from here.”

Does that mean Stevenson will be departing Hannibal once his retirement is official?

“We’re uncommitted at this point, but you can guess what my wife wants to do and I am not arguing with that,” he said. “We’ve been looking at options. I kind of have to take things one step at a time.”

Stevenson has frequently been the target of harsh public criticism for changes at the utility, some of which led to rate increases. Because some of the HBPW system changes were the result of unfunded government mandates, does Stevenson believe he has been judged unfairly?

“I don’t want to whine, but yeah,” he said. “I think there has been a lot of hateful rhetoric in this town brought on by some of our customers who don’t like the way we do our business. I seem to be the public face of that and that’s too bad for me. But I guess that’s why I collect my check every two weeks. to take some of that heat off the board.”

After being hired in November 2009, Stevenson told the Courier-Post, “This place (Hannibal) has been here for 100 years and I’m just the next one in line. I have a strong sense of history in that regard. I take it as a big responsibility to not screw it up for the next guy.”

What will be the biggest challenge the “next guy” will face?

“Getting through this water project I think. That’s going to be huge,” said Stevenson.

Is Stevenson leaving the HBPW in better shape than he found it?

“In some aspects, I think yes,” he said. “Others I am not so sure of, but we’re a stronger utility now. We have an excellent staff. We’ve got some really talented people working here. Our equipment is in good shape; it’s fairly new. We have a stronger balance sheet by far. Those are all good things. I don’t think we’ve made many new friends. During my tenure we’ve struggled with (community) unhappiness.”

Stevenson points to a pair of accomplishments as being the most satisfying developments on his watch.

“Back in 2013, when the city authorized investing $20 million in the water and sewer systems, which we did, I thought that was a pretty big deal. That has a lot of long-term profound effects for the city that are good,” he said. “I think in our electric system getting away from a full-requirement contract and being able to do business on the open market for electricity, which involves the diesel generators and Prairie State in a more positive way, I think that’s a big change, too.”

Stevenson succeeded Don Willis, who served two years as GM before retiring. Willis joined the HBPW on a part-time basis in January 2001.

A registered professional engineer, Stevenson had served as a production planning engineer for the city of Independence, Mo., Power and Light, director of operations for Trigen Energy Corp in Kansas City and director of utilities for the New Ulm, Minn., Public Utilities. Before moving to Hannibal, Stevenson owned and operated Rose Hill Homes, a general contracting company that produced custom and spec single family homes in the Springfield, Mo., and Table Rock Lake area.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com