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Crotty retires after 25 years in public works

Bob Crotty, a Somerset native, has worked for the Village of Somerset for more than 40 years - first in the police department and then as public works director. He will be retiring on April 29.

"I guess the most unusual time was when the elephants were loose."

Bob Crotty, 63, has seen quite a few changes while employed with the Village of Somerset, including the aforementioned time when some visiting circus animals got frightened during a thunderstorm in the 1980s.

He has worked part-time with the police department back in the 1970s and is currently the public works director. Crotty will be retiring on April 29.

He was born and raised on the homestead just north of the village that his great-grandfather settled back in 1859. Originally 104 acres, the property was divided and Crotty ultimately received 40 acres. His older brother still lives in the original house.

After graduating from Somerset High School, he went to work for a truck body manufacturer in the cities. By the time he was 24 years old, he decided to apply for a part-time job with the Somerset Police Department.

"Back then, they had '240 training' which meant you had to have 240 hours of training to be certified," he explained. "But they only offered 40 hours of training every year, so it took me 5-6 years to be certified."

In the meantime, he was working at the department alongside full-time officers, going out on patrols and helping out where he could.

The atmosphere then was very different compared to the current Somerset.

"Weekends were busy because of the influx of tourism, since we had nine tubing establishments and campgrounds then," he recalled. "Had a lot of lost kids, fights at the bars, people getting separated from their groups."

Although he said the village hired extra help throughout the summer, the police chief was the only full-time position when Crotty received his certification.

He worked at the police department from 1973-1988. During that time, he still kept his full-time job in the Cities. However, the trucking company went out of business in April 1985, and so the part-time police work carried him, his wife and four children through until another position opened up -- one much closer to home.

"There was a vacancy here because the public works director had left," he said. "I already knew people here from working at the police department, so I applied and got the job in November 1985."

In the beginning, he said that he was a laborer rather than a director. His duties included street maintenance, patching potholes, mowing, reading meters and working at the wastewater treatment plant. He ultimately worked up to being "lead person," which he said was like a working foreman, and eventually assumed the title as director.

He decided to quit his part-time police job to concentrate his time and energies on public works.

Good thing too, since he said that the most challenging time was between the years of 1995-2007 when the Village of Somerset increased rapidly.

"We have a lot more business opportunities now; we've grown beyond just having a gas station," he said. "The most challenging project was redoing Main Street in 2006 because that disrupted businesses and the village."

Pam Donohoe, village clerk for the last 16 years, said that Crotty was invaluable, particularly during that time.

"There was a huge growth in the housing market between 2001-2006," said Donohoe. "We've always had a good working relationship. His retirement will be a big loss for the village because some stuff he just knows the history."

Despite the fact that his wife still runs her own business, Crotty said that the time felt right for him to retire.

"There comes a time when you pass the torch," he said. "This timing is good now -- there is not a lot of activity or projects, so it is a good time to let a new person get acclimated."

Because all four of his children and their families live on the subdivided homestead lots, Crotty isn't planning on leaving Somerset. However, he may be enticed to leave the country for a short time.

"My wife has had 'her' trip to Hawaii, so 'my' trip is to go to Ireland -- my family is originally from Waterford," he said.

His immediate plans, however, are to do some woodworking and gardening. He and his wife are planning on taking a celebratory trip to St. Louis for a week as well.

Crotty, a quiet man with a quick smile, said that he really appreciated the opportunity to serve his community.

"I just want to thank everyone I worked with here," he concluded. "Somerset is a great place."