HARKER HEIGHTS — City Manager Steve Carpenter is leaving Heights very different than how he found it in 1994.
After 19 years at its helm, Carpenter helped change the landscape of the city, and several of his colleagues and city employees said he changed it for the better.
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.
Like an orchestra conductor, Carpenter said it took everyone — employees, elected officials and citizens — working together to create the harmonious rhythm behind 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.
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 bittersweet.
Bark was Carpenter’s first hire as city manager.
“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 several items to be enjoyed during his retirement, like fishing gear.
“Steve is right up there with P.R. Cox and Harley Kern in terms of what he has done for this city,” said Mayor Mike Aycock. “He is Mr. Harker Heights and his retirement is well deserved. He has left us with a roadmap to help us continue to succeed and words cannot speak to what he has helped us accomplish.”
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.
He said he is looking forward to sleeping in, and doing some traveling with his wife, Dayna. His final day on the job is Dec. 31.