Four decades is a long time.
For 40 years now, Willie Campbell has been punching the clock at the Carter County Highway Department to help serve the needs of his community.
Monday marked the special milestone in Campbell’s career. During his tenure with the department Campbell has worked in a variety of roles including supervising a work crew, driving a snow plow, and making sure the county’s stop signs and street signs are still in place.
“I’ve done probably a little bit of everything,” Campbell said. “When I started we really didn’t have anything to work with. We’ve built it up through the years. We did most of the stuff by hand back then, we didn’t have a lot of equipment to work with.”
During his time at the Highway Department, Campbell has served under three different elected Road Superintendents – R.H. Taylor, Jack Perkins, and current Road Superintendent Roger Colbaugh. Campbell said each of the superintendents had different ideas on operating the department but they were all good to work for and with.
“They’ve always took care of me, and I thank God for that,” Campbell said.
While for many celebrating 40 years at a job might mean retirement, Campbell said he has no plans to hang it up just yet.
“I said as long as I have the strength and the Lord gives me the ability to keep going I’ll keep working,” he said.
In addition to working at the Highway Department, Campbell serves his community in a variety of other ways as well. He is currently in his sixth year serving as a County Commissioner representing the Stoney Creek community. He is also the Associate Pastor for Moore’s Chapel Freewill Baptist Church in his home community and operates a nursing home ministry where he visits with residents in nursing homes around the area. “That’s a ministry that’s really neglected,” Campbell said of the nursing homes.
Campbell’s faith is a very important part of his life. In addition to his pastoral and ministry duties, he also serves as chaplain of the Carter County Commission. “The Lord has been good to me,” Campbell said when discussing his work in the community and at the Highway Department.
And, living in an area as beautiful as Carter County Campbell said if you look around you can find evidence of God all around you. His favorite scripture passage is Psalms 121 which says “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”
Living in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee, that verse strikes home for Campbell. “When you look at the mountains and stuff, you know only God could have made all this,” he said.
And, if you have ever taken a drive up Stoney Creek during the Christmas season, you will have spotted one of the other ways Campbell helps to spread joy and happiness to those around him. He and his wife, Delores, turn their home into a winter wonderland each year with a yard full of decorations and lights. And when you drive by, you might even see Campbell in a jolly red suit portraying Santa Claus as he waves and invites you to stop by.
“The nursing homes bring the residents up in a bus to see it and visit,” Campbell said of his holiday display, adding it’s just something he can do to help bring joy to others. “There’s a lot of things you can do to make people happy.”
As for Road Superintendent Roger Colbaugh, he is pleased that Campbell has no thoughts of leaving the department just yet.
“Willie’s a real good employee who does a great job,” Colbaugh said. “He’s got a lot of history here. Whenever we need to find a road, or we’re having problems in an area, or need to find a graveyard, he knows all that from memory.”
“We would hate to lose that,” Colbaugh continued. “That’s a big benefit to us.”
The Carter County Highway Department hosted a celebration for Campbell on Monday to mark his 40th anniversary with the department. Carter County Mayor Rusty Barnett presented Campbell with a certificate on Monday thanking him for his service to the county.
“Willie has been an asset to the county for many years and we are glad to have him as part of the team at the Highway Department,” Barnett said. “His professionalism and dedication are to be commended.”