By Ed Brock
Now that he's essentially retired, former Jonesboro Director of Public Works James B. Massengale will have plenty of time.
Time to paint the house, help out in a local hardware store or even sit in the small park behind city hall that is now named after him.
"I'm not just going to sit down and do nothing," Massengale said. "I feel like when a lot of folks sit down they don't stay around for long."
After 34 years of working for the city, starting on Dec. 5, 1971 as assistant to then Public Works Director Jack Scarborough, 55-year-old Massengale is officially retiring at the end of this month. Tuesday night more than 100 family, friends and well-wishers gathered at the Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department station on North Main Street to say their good-byes.
"He's always been the same James," said City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Clifford "Rip" Sewell.
"Like most people in Jonesboro, I think of James as a brother," Mayor Joy Day said.
"There hasn't been a time when we called on James when he didn't come and help," Police Chief Mark Harris said.
Having grown up on Mundy's Mill Road and graduating from Jonesboro High School, Massengale lived in Atlanta for a while and worked for Aristocraft Boating before moving to the city in 1968. During his time he oversaw numerous changes to the city's infrastructure, its property and services.
"When I came to work for the city there weren't any curbed streets," Massengale said.
On Massengale's watch the city upgraded its water and sewer system before selling it to the county in 1995.
"A man like James has left a lasting legacy on the city of Jonesboro," Day said.
As part of that legacy, Day and the city council renamed City Hall Park, essentially a lawn with a gazebo behind city hall on North Avenue, to Massengale Park.
"I think that was a very good gesture on behalf of the mayor and the council," Massengale said.
The city has named Sam Durrance as the interim replacement for Massengale, but Massengale said he plans to help out as long as the city needs him.
That help will be appreciated, City Manager Jon Walker said.
"James has a wealth of knowledge," Walker said.
Walker said the city will advertise the job opening and he isn't sure if the next public works director will come from among the city workers or from outside.
"I think there are some advantages to both and we'll just have to weight those options," Walker said.
Massengale said he wants to travel around the area a little in his retirement, work part-time at Crane Hardware and Ford-Stewart Funeral Home and, of course, work around the house.
The last part is certainly true, wife Debbie Massengale said.
"I have a to-do list," Debbie said. "And he gets to help baby-sit three grandchildren."