And now after 41 years with the city, Hammonds a longtime employee of the public works department, has announced his retirement. His last day on the job will be Dec. 20.
“(My wife and I) started thinking about it earlier this summer. I was turning 62, we have a granddaughter (Grace) that’s 3 years old, and I want to spend more time with my mom and dad,” Hammonds said. “Just a lot of things came together at the perfect time to really think about it.”
TIME WITH THE CITY
Hammonds’ first day with the city was Nov. 22, 1978, starting off in the engineering division at City Hall, where he met Rose — his wife of almost 39 years. After spending six years with engineering, Hammonds transitioned to asphalt foreman, then public works specialist and finally was promoted to the manager of the streets and sanitation division, a position he’s held for more than 15 years.
Under his leadership, the city has been able to make progress in many areas that has enhanced service, while maintaining or lowering costs and improving employee safety. When Hammonds first came to the city, the engineering division didn’t have computers. The work was done with calculators and maybe a word processor, he said.
Hammonds predates the city’s recycling program, the annual cleanup event and all of the automation that’s essentially common practice in the public works industry across the country. Computerization and automation are two of the biggest changes to take place in public works during his tenure with the city, he said.
SWITCHING TO AUTOMATION
One noteworthy job Hammonds completed earlier in his career involved a study on the efficiency of side-loading garbage trucks versus rear-loading ones. Eventually, all of the trucks were switched to automated ones. Manual recycling also went automated, and trash collection trucks went from three-man crews to the grabber trucks.
Over the years, Hammonds has won various accolades from the American Public Works Association including the Roger Clark Award in 2007, the Larry Eddins Award in 2009 and finally the Public Works Man of the Year for Tennessee in 2014.
“It’s difficult to think about our public works department without Ronnie Hammonds,” said Ryan McReynolds, deputy city manager. “He’s dedicated his time, talents and knowledge to Kingsport over the past four decades.”
HIS FUTURE PLANS
Hammonds said he and his wife plan to stay in Kingsport. His only son, daughter-in-law and grandbaby are only a couple of hours down the road and, as previously mentioned, his parents are still living in the area.
He plans to continue being active with the Tennessee Public Works Association, will still volunteer around town (as he does with Meals on Wheels) and will remain a member of the Kingsport Kiwanis Club. And of course he will help out with his granddaughter as much as he can.
During his tenure at the Model City, Ronnie Hammonds worked with nine mayors, eight city managers and hundreds of other city employees. He made certain to stay out of politics as much as he could and just do his job no matter who was in office or leading the city.
Hammonds said he just wanted to make sure the work got done and tried to keep everything on an even keel.
“I’m going to miss the job and I’ll miss the people I worked with,” Hammonds said. “I was very fortunate to work with a lot of people throughout the city. I made a lot of good friends and memories and hopefully made a little bit of a difference.”