Oxford departments feel retirement impact

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – Three city departments will be under new leadership soon after their leaders retire this summer.
The plans of Fire Chief Mike Hill, Electric Department Superintendent Lynn Robbins and Solid Waste Superintendent Randy Russell to retire June 30 were made public last week. Deputy Fire Chief David Duchaine’s retirement was also announced.
Russell has worked for the city for 34 years, beginning as a co-op student while attending Oxford High School. He began full-time work in 1978 and became director of the Solid Waste department in 1998.
Along with the addition of Oxford’s award-winning recycling program, “The biggest change was 2003-2006 when the housing market was up and the town grew,” Russell said. “We grew with the market with more customers, employees and more areas to maintain.”
Russell said he’s looking forward to having more time to hunt, fish and golf, among other activities.
Robbins, a resident of Pontotoc County’s Hurricane community, began working at Oxford Electric in 2003 after a 32-year career at North East Mississippi Electric Power Association. He said technology has radically changed the way electric customers are served.
“Everything we deal with from substations to our offices is computerized now,” he said.
Robbins said he and his wife plan to volunteer with Oxford’s RSVP service and with their church.
Hill is retiring at the ripe young age of 49 after having joined the fire department 26 years ago.
“I love the fire service, but the opportunity to retire is there, and I’m young enough to do something else entirely,” he said.
The son of a firefighter, Hill said he’s been gratified by the progression of firefighter safety and training during his years in the profession. Just as previous generations of drivers resisted wearing seatbelts, older firefighters were reluctant to wear a breathing apparatus, for instance.
“How kids wear their seatbelts automatically now, that’s how firefighters see their air masks,” Hill said.
Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson lamented the departure of these men as the city’s loss.
After Hill’s retirement was announced, Patterson joked, “I hope you have a flat on the way home.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com