December is a bittersweet month for Harker Heights City Manager Steve Carpenter.
After 19 years as the city’s highest ranking official, Carpenter will retire after 30 years in municipal government.
During a retirement ceremony at the Activities Center on Tuesday, city staff, elected officials and friends from across Bell County gathered to honor the work he has done for the city.
“I have been on this journey for the past 40 years, 30 of them working in cities, but the journey is not the important part; it’s the people you meet along the way,” he said.
Like an orchestra conductor, Carpenter said it took everyone — employees, elected officials and residents — working together to create the harmonious rhythm behind the city.
Carpenter is credited with guiding Heights from a small bedroom community into a viable retail-fueled city, teaming with shopping centers and restaurants.
For Jerry Bark, director of Parks and Recreation, Carpenter’s retirement is personal.
Bark was the first department head Carpenter hired.
“Together we have renovated and purchased 193 acres of park land,” he said, describing the six parks that were created during Carpenter’s tenure. “He has improved the quality of life here 10-fold. He taught me to stick to a vision and to stay passionate about the work you do and to always strive to improve the city you are in.”
During the ceremony, Carpenter was presented with several gifts and accolades from various departments within the city, including fishing gear and other items to be enjoyed during his retirement.
“Steve’s top talent is that he’s great at hiring people. He didn’t have to work hard because all the people he hired made him look really good,” joked former councilman Mike Miller. “I was prepared to roast him but I really can’t say anything bad about him. He’s done a tremendous amount for this city.”
Over the last 19 years, Patty Brunson, assistant city manager, has worked side by side with Carpenter.
“When you work with someone eight hours a day, seven days a week for almost 20 years, you tend to know them better than your own family,” she said.
“He has been my mentor and has taught me so much over the years. We wish him all the best and the employees will miss him dearly.”
Carpenter said he plans to stay in the city and stay involved. His final day on the job is Dec. 31.