Sanders retires after (almost) 37 years

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2011

Larry Sanders is shown with his wife, Margaret, and children, David and Angel.

Covington County native Larry Sanders said goodbye to the job he’s gone to for the last 36 years and 10 months Friday.

Sanders started to work with the Alabama Department of Transportation in June 1974 as an equipment operator, and eventually moved through the ranks to transportation technologist.

District Manager William Wofford described Sanders as “reliable.”

“Anytime, day or night, I knew I could depend on Larry to get it done,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of laughs and good times. We’ve also had some rough times – storms, hurricanes, floods, sink holes, pipes collapsing and train and truck wrecks.”

Wofford recalled the most “unusual” call he ever received from Sanders, which happened about 17 years ago.

“Someone called Larry and said there was a very large boat – actually it was a yacht – in Red Level on Hwy. 55, that had been abandoned in the road,” he said. “He called me at about 6:30 in the morning and said, ‘You ain’t going to believe this, but there is a big boat in the middle of Hwy. 55.’

“My first thought was I must have slept through a hell of a storm last night,” Wofford said. “We closed only the middle lanes, so traffic could still go by. We used a flat bed truck and a crane to get the boat out of the road. Someone had stolen it from Destin.”

Sanders recalled the funniest part of the whole experience was when an older gentlemen slowed down and said, “Sonny, if you’ll put that boat in water, you’ll catch a lot more fish.”

Wofford recalled that in his 18 years of working at the district office, Sanders was the only employee he could remember that had worked a full 24-hour day.

“It think it was after Hurricane Opal,” he said. “I think he had worked 12 to 16 hours the day before and the day after, too.”

Several employees shared with Sanders how much they would miss him.

“I hate to see you go, but wish you the best,” Wofford said.

“To stay in one location that many years says a lot about you as a person,” one employee chimed in. “I feel like I’ve known you all my life. I wish you the best.”

Randy Campbell, a former Oakey Streak resident and now Tuscon, Ariz., resident, emailed Wofford earlier in the week expressing his congratulations to Sanders.

“You’re too young to retire,” he said. “God broke the mold when he made you, so DOT and the State of Alabama will have to live without you.”

Sanders said his most enjoyable experience was “working with my co-workers and being with them. They make everything work.”

The biggest change Sanders said he’s seen in his nearly four decades of work is the number of employees.

“We still have as much or more roadway now as we did then,” he said. “Now, it is done with a lot less people.”

Just what does Sanders have in mind for retirement?

“Hopefully, we’re going to be traveling,” he said. “My wife, Margaret, is going to retire in May, and I hope we’re going to go wherever we want.”

Sanders was presented plaques and certificates from the district office, state DOT officials and Gov. Robert Bentley.