When it comes to being the city of Hannibal's king of longevity, Jerry Daniels wears the crown with over 40 years of service. He'll surrender that title on Friday, April 28, when he puts in his last official day on the job as a member of the Street Department.
While he retires as a Street Worker 1, the 61-year-old Daniels' resume reflects numerous duties he has performed over four decades.
"I've had a lot of different titles over the years. They kind of get changed back and forth," he said.
Just as Daniels' job title has frequently been altered during his career, so have the responsibilities of the department for which he's worked.
"We've had a lot of variety and different activities," he said. "Anything that comes up in the city, if it doesn't belong to police or fire, it belongs to us, so you get a lot of unusual (projects)."
One of the most memorable duties arose when major dignitaries came to town.
"When the presidential candidates came it was always exciting setting up and getting ready for them. Working with the Secret Service was a learning experience," said Daniels, who remembers shaking the hand of President Jimmy Carter when he visited America's Hometown on Aug. 23, 1979.
When Daniels joined the city workforce the Street Department was divided into two sections - the Traffic Division, whose focus was street signs and painting, and the Building Maintenance Division, which consisted of two parts – interior and exterior/grounds.
When Daniels was hired, the Traffic and Building Maintenance divisions consisted of approximately 60 employees. Today, the Street Department has less than seven full-time workers.
"We still do the buildings, grounds and the other things we used to do. They (jobs) have to go somewhere," he said.
Clearing streets following a winter weather event wasn't the most dreaded job during Daniels' career.
Slipping and sliding
"You get used to ice and sliding backwards," he said. "You have to learn how to handle light snow, fluffy snow and ice, and it's all different. It takes a long time to get accustomed and feeling comfortable."
Daniels' most formidable task was remembering to always wear a smile.
"Trying to be polite to the public on a regular basis can be a challenge. You have 19,000 bosses, or whatever the population is now," he said. "I had a work order up on Paris Avenue one day. I no more had gotten out and was fixing a hole when a guy drove by who lived on Olive. He said, 'I'm so happy you're filling that.' That felt pretty good. Then a guy up the street hollered out a window, 'Why are you filling that blankety-blank hole? That's a speed bump. It helps slow traffic down.' Then a lady steps out and hollers, 'I just got brand new carpet. My kids are going to track that all over.' That's kind of normal. You make one person happy and a couple of others want to..."
While a participant in numerous major projects, Daniels' most satisfying work took place on projects the public rarely saw, such as on failing storm drains.
"Most of those would be a little scary if you knew what you were driving over," he said.
Retirement won't be filled with a lot of idle time.
"I've got some projects I'm going to do on my Jeep and I've some projects to do on my wife's Jeep," said Daniels. "I enjoy gardening. I've got a camper at the Bayview Campground which is where I spend four days a week."
Daniels also expects to have more time to enjoy his eight grandchildren.
"They're all active," he said. "That will keep me active keeping up with them, or trying to."
Reach reporter Danny Henley at email@example.com