PORT ANGELES — Craig Jacobs doesn’t seek the spotlight.
But Clallam County officials made sure he got it, with high praise and two standing ovations for their retiring public works director.
Jacobs will step down on Dec. 31 after more than 30 years as parks director and public works director. He was recognized in an emotional presentation in Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting.
In his brief remarks, Jacobs recalled an age with no computers, cell phones, BlackBerrys, Facebook, Twitter or e-mails.
“Boy, those were the good old days,” Jacobs said.
Joking aside, Jacobs said Clallam County has benefited from technological advancement.
“We have sophisticated equipment doing jobs we used to do manually,” he said.
During his tenure, Jacobs has overseen the acquisition and development of 13 of the county’s 19 parks.
He also led the reconstruction of Camp David Jr., the Clallam County Courthouse and Old Olympic Highway.
Other highlights include the expansion of the Olympic Discovery Trail and reconstruction of recently completed double-deck Elwha River Bridge.
“He leaves just a very solid legacy that I think any one of us would be proud of,” Commissioner Steve Tharinger said.
“It’s enough for maybe four or five people.”
Commissioner Mike Chapman said his life has been enriched by working with Jacobs for the past nine years.
“You are an example of the integrity in public service that far too often we don’t see enough of,” Chapman said.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve always agreed, but you’re one of the good guys in public service and thank you for all you’ve done.”
Jacobs became public works director in 2001 after serving 22 years as parks director.
With his impending retirement, county officials have split the department into three wings — a roads division, utilities division and park, fair and facilities division.
The public works director will not be replaced.
“We can’t fill it,” said County Administrator Jim Jones in an emotional tribute.
“We’re not even going to try.”
Bob Martin becomes the county’s utilities manager. Joel Winborn is the new parks, fair and facilities division manager.
“We saw Craig pass on his wisdom, not with his words so much as the fact that he lived it,” said Ross Tyler, Clallam County engineer, who takes over the roads division.
“It’s a lot better to have somebody lead by example than, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.'”
During his tenure with the county, Jacobs and the parks board “arguably has created the best county parks system in the state,” Tharinger said.
Cline Spit was the first park that Jacobs helped acquire in March 1984. The last was the Agnew Soccer Fields, which were dedicated on Nov. 18.
Commissioner Mike Doherty described a controversial time when Jacobs started in July 1979.
Three commissioners were up for recall in the late 1970s — the first time in state history that had happened.
“Nothing criminal was alleged, but it was just before the era of public records, open meetings, laws, those kinds of things,” Doherty said.
“Two commissioners were actually recalled from office, so there was a little unease at the courthouse at that time.”
After the recalls, Clallam became a charter county in a vote that passed by less than 1 percent, adding to the unrest among county employees.
“I can’t believe he brought his young bride to the situation at that time,” Doherty said, referring to Jacobs’ wife, Sue.
“It was quite an atmosphere.”
There was also a secession movement on the West End of the county.
“Those early days as the parks director here were full of surprises,” Jacobs said.
The parks director spot experienced high turnover during the 1970s until Jacobs arrived from Hastings, Neb., and solidified it.
“It was a beautiful part of the country to live, with mountains and waters all around,” Jacobs said.
During his first year, the 1930s-era electrical system at Camp David Jr. failed. Jacobs took a bond issue to the public to restore Camp David Jr., and it passed.
“That was part of his initiation by fire,” said Doherty, who read a six-paragraph proclamation to about 50 county employees and public citizens in attendance.
The proclamation recognized Jacobs’ “dedication, accomplishments, leadership, and example.”
Several county officials spoke on behalf of Jacobs, some of whom couldn’t hold back their tears.
“Certainly every success that I’ve had in this business is directly related to the top quality professionals, the employees, the supervisors and managers found throughout the county, and the hundreds of volunteers that serve on our park board and fair boards and work throughout our county on various projects,” Jacobs said.
“I’d like to thank each of you for providing me a great opportunity and a great place to live, and for providing me with a very rewarding career.”
________Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected]