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City of Rockwall employee reflects on 40 years of service

Mayor David Sweet and Russell Lawrence. Mayor Sweet presented a proclamation at the City Council’s recent meeting.

ROCKWALL, TX (August 12, 2014) Russell Lawrence began working for the City of Rockwall long before many of its current residents were born.  Hired on August 13, 1974, the City’s Parks Superintendent celebrates his 40th year of service to the residents of Rockwall this month.  With a population of less than 6,000 in the 1970’s to more than 40,000 now, he has been a witness and contributor to Rockwall’s transformation.

During these four decades, Rockwall grew from a small community with scattered neighborhoods, farmland, and locally-owned stores to a thriving mid-size suburb with over 14,700 residential homes, major retailers, multiple shopping destinations, and business and industry that allow residents to live, work, and play in Rockwall.

Russell was gracious enough to reflect upon that last 40 years and share how he became an employee of the City of Rockwall.  “I went to Dallas looking for a job, but didn’t find one.  So, on my way home, I stopped in Rockwall to see a friend.  My friend told me the City was hiring.  After a short interview with Director of Public Works, J.T. Price, he hired us both that same day.  I started as a member of the street department since the Parks Department did not exist at the time.”

In 1974, City employees were required to live in the City and have a home phone.  After three months, Russell had saved enough ($75), earning $2.00 an hour at the time to pay for the deposit on a phone line and was moved into a full time position.  Rockwall had one red light at the corner of Goliad Street and Rusk Street intersection.  The population was approximately 4,400 and Lofland Park was the only park in town.  There were only a few places to eat: the truck stop, The Derby, Old Timers, and the Dairy Queen.  Rockwall had two grocery stores: one owned by Charles Dorris in the building where Ace Hardware currently resides and the Hilltop Grocery.  There were only two businesses south of I-30 in 1974.  Russell noted that what has changed the most in 40 years of working for the City is the quality of vehicles.  His first vehicle assigned to him was an old 1962 Chevy Pickup.  The primary color was yellow with about 5 other colors blended in.

In the 1980’s, he formed and organized the Men’s and Co-Ed softball league as well as the Umpires Association in Rockwall.  Russell lists this accomplishment as one of the proudest achievements of his career.  He’s fielded teams in both leagues with great success spanning several seasons.  And, if anyone questions how serious Russell is about the game, many years ago, he benched his boss at the time, Parks Director Rick Crowley, for missing practice.  Rick is now the City Manager.  As for being benched Crowley said, “Russell was clearly the team’s coach.”

Russell has had many great memories working for the City and says he is very proud to have served Rockwall and to have given his best to this great City for the past 40 years.  He doesn’t plan to try to make it to his 50th anniversary but rather dedicate more time on his hobbies, such as prospecting for gold, hunting, fishing, and spending more time with family and grandkids.

City Manager Rick Crowley has worked with Russell for 30 years.  “Russell continues to be a valuable contributor to the success of the City.  Day after day he continues to prove that sustained hard work contributes much more than words spoken to keeping park land and amenities well-maintained.”

Mayor David Sweet sees results of Russell’s service to Rockwall, “His contributions over the last 40 years are so numerous it would be difficult to mention them all.  The best way to see a lifetime of service to the City and its residents is to visit any park, playground, or ball field throughout Rockwall and see the positive impact he has made on the quality of life we all enjoy.”

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